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Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois rides the subway in Montreal on Aug. 2, 2012.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Pauline Marois, a woman for the common people? It's hard to think of the PQ leader who lives in a multi-million-dollar mansion on Île Bizard near Montreal as a common woman. But that's the image she would like people to have of her.

Ms. Marois does come from a modest background, but that was a few years ago. On Thursday, she took to the streets of Montreal for a long subway ride across the city to prove that she can still relate to the common person. On the subway she crouched for photos with commuters, shook hands with voters, and protected in a motherly fashion her new recruit, 20-year-old former student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin, keeping him from straying too far from her.

The event was carefully staged by the PQ campaign organizers to show that Ms. Marois, unlike Jean Charest, was unafraid to take to the streets and meet the common folks, some of the same people who took part in nightly demonstrations during as Quebec's "Maple Spring" to protest the Charest government's policies and its decision to impose tuition fee hikes on university students. She said repeatedly that she was proud of having stood up for the students and wanted to show voters she wasn't embarrassed to show it.

When asked if she took the subway often, Ms. Marois said that in fact she had taken it about eight months ago. But the shuttle back and forth from her riding in Charlevoix, east of Quebec City, to her permanent home on Île Bizard had to be done by car. It certainly wasn't ideal for everyday travel on the subway line, she said jokingly. And as she manoeuvred through the television cameras and photographers that captured her every move on the subway line, commuters pressed against each other, bearing the summer heat while heading toward their destination, looked on with some amazement at the all attention she was drawing.

It also had the co-leader of the left-wing Quebec Solidaire party, Françoise David, scratching her head over all the attention being given to Ms. Marois' orchestrated commute.

"I often take the subway and the bus but I don't call journalists each time I do," Ms. David said.