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Sovereigntist PQ leader tries to reassure English-speaking Quebeckers

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Chateauguay, Quebec September 1, 2012.


Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois tried Saturday to reassure members of the province's anglophone community on edge about the prospect of her party returning to power.

Ms. Marois, whose sovereigntist party is leading in the polls ahead of Tuesday's election, has come under criticism for her plan to strengthen the province's language law, Bill 101.

At a campaign stop outside Montreal, an English school board member confronted Ms. Marois over her proposed limits for who can attend English junior college, known as CEGEP.

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Immigrants and francophones would be required to attend CEGEP in French under the PQ's policy.

"We try to give a chance to all our francophone community here, and if you win we won't have the opportunity to serve our community," Chuck Halliday told Ms. Marois, when she came up to shake his hand at a market in the suburb of Chateauguay.

Ms. Marois, somewhat taken aback, replied, "Ah... We'll find ways to get along."

Later, she told reporters she would work to improve education for anglophones, without going into specifics.

"I think we should help English school boards... better serve the English speaking community, and in that sense, we won't let them down," she said.

With the election only days away, voters are giving the PQ's plans a closer look — and some people are getting worried.

An English-language rights group organized small rallies in Montreal and Quebec City for Saturday against the PQ and its plan to strengthen Bill 101.

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Recent polls suggest the PQ are ahead of both the Coalition for Quebec's Future and Premier Jean Charest's Liberals, which sit in third.

Coalition head Francois Legault, meanwhile, took aim at Ms. Marois' hope to hold a referendum on sovereignty.

Mr. Legault accused Ms. Marois of being out of touch with Quebecers for pursuing a referendum that no one wants. Ms. Marois, he said, is living "in a fantasy world."

Mr. Charest was also busy on Saturday as he made a final push to shore up support. He made a stop in Magdalen Islands in the morning with plans to return to Quebec City by the end of the day.

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