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PQ leader Pauline Marois delivers a speech before the Montreal Board of Trade Tuesday, August 28, 2012 in Montreal.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois is taking aim at the the Coalition Avenir Quebec's economic plan in an effort to discredit its leader, Francois Legault, and question his ability to offer a credible alternative.

The PQ and the CAQ are locked into close races in predominantly francophone ridings outside of Montreal. A CROP poll on Tuesday showed the CAQ in second place behind the PQ, with Mr. Legault increasing his support among francophone voters in the late stages of the campaign.

With the CAQ now running a solid second to the PQ, Ms. Marois has all but ignored the issues that at the outset dominated the campaign: There was no mention of Jean Charest's Liberals, the issue of government integrity and corruption or the student strike that caused social unrest throughout most of the province last spring.

Instead, in a speech before the Metropolitan Montreal Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Ms. Marois sought to portray Mr. Legault as unreliable and unpredictable, saying the CAQ would abolish tax measures that provide small- and medium size- business the leverage needed to expand.

"The CAQ wants to abolish tax measures that currently benefit high-tech industries," she said in her speech arguing that the proposal would cause irreparable damage to Montreal. "The CAQ wants to eliminate a total of $2-billion in tax credits to businesses."

A PQ government, Ms. Marois said, would intervene to offer more venture capital to new businesses and ensure that the province's pension fund, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Quebec, would become a powerful tool to prevent undesired takeovers of Quebec companies by outside investors.

"I have said that the Caisse de depot will create a strategic fund of $10-billion to keep our companies and head offices here at home," she said.

Ms. Marois also accused Mr. Legault of proposing tax credits that will harm investments while refusing to reveal a "secret plan" that would increase hydro rates even more than what was unveiled.

Mr. Legault has proposed a gradual rate hike amounting to $377 a year per household at the end of a five-year term, or an overall increase of $1.6-billion. Ms. Marois invited the CAQ leader to release the secret studies he said he has obtained regarding the government-owned utility, which would justify slashing thousands of jobs at Hydro Quebec.

"The question is: does he have a secret plan for Hydro Quebec other than the one he has told us? And what are the secret studies that confirm his point of view? If he has them, then he should make them public," the PQ leader said.

Ms. Marois barely mentioned the issue of sovereignty, knowing the province's business class still remained skeptical in embracing Quebec independence.

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