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Quebec’s sovereignty debate is driving voters to CAQ, leader says

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault gestures during an interview on March 22, 2014, in Quebec City.

CLEMENT ALLARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault says the controversy over another referendum on sovereignty is shifting support to his party, predicting a two-way race between the CAQ and the Liberals.

With two weeks left in the campaign, his comments overlooked the fact that the CAQ is staggering far behind in public opinion polls, with support of about 13 per cent of voters in recent surveys. On Saturday, the province's chief electoral officer disqualified three CAQ candidates in Montreal for failing to file proper nomination papers.

But Mr. Legault argued that since Parti Québécois star candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau said he was running in the April 7 election to achieve sovereignty, the referendum issue has resurfaced, undermining PQ Leader Pauline Marois's chances at getting re-elected.

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"Two-thirds of Quebeckers don't want a referendum … So I expect a significant drop for the Parti Québécois not only here in Quebec City but throughout the province," Mr. Legault said. "It is becoming more and more a battle between us and the Liberals since we are the two parties who have no intention of holding a referendum."

Mr. Legault then focused on the issue of corruption and integrity, which he argued sets him apart from the Liberals and the PQ. The CAQ was never involved in the type of illegal financing schemes in which the other two parties allegedly participated, Mr. Legault said, pointing to testimony before the Charbonneau Commission probing corruption in the construction industry, the awarding of government contracts and financing of political parties.

He noted that Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, along with former Liberal cabinet ministers, have been interrogated by the special police anti-corruption unit and that a lot of important facts have yet to be made public.

Mr. Legault expressed disappointment that the Charbonneau Commission suspended the public hearings during the election campaign. But he was also upset that the commission was currently conducting interviews behind closed doors with former Liberal fundraisers, and that the information was being kept secret until after the vote.

Mr. Legault brushed off suggestions that he failed to ensure all his candidates followed the proper procedures to run for the CAQ.

The chief electoral officer disqualified three candidates because they failed to get 100 valid signatures in their ridings. Some signatures were found to be invalid. Mr. Legault explained that the three were party volunteers who put their names on the ballot knowing that they had no chances of winning the predominantly Liberal ridings.

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About the Author
Quebec City political correspondent

Rhéal Séguin is a journalist and political scientist. Born and educated in southern Ontario, he completed his undergraduate degree in political science at York University and a master's degree in political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.Rhéal has practised journalism since 1978, first with Radio-Canada in radio and television and then with CBC Radio. More

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