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From left, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault, Liberal Leader Jean Charest and Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois talk before their debate in Montreal on Aug. 19, 2012.CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters

Quebeckers should vote for the Coalition Avenir Québec if they do not want to re-elect the Charest government to a fourth mandate, according to an editorial endorsement by an influential Montreal newspaper.

La Presse is sticking to tradition by supporting the Quebec Liberal Party at the expense of the Parti Québécois in the Sept. 4 election. However, the newspaper is adding a twist by also supporting a vote for the upstart CAQ.

"Those who want to see a change in government should support the Coalition Avenir Québec," the editorial states. "The formation has the weaknesses of a young party, but it proposes to govern according to the real preoccupations of the population, instead of adhering to an ideology."

The Quebec Liberals and their Leader, Jean Charest, have "done good work on many fronts," especially on the economy. The editorial stated, however, that there are "two dark spots" on the Liberal record. The first is the issue of corruption, with La Presse stating that the Liberals overemphasized political fundraising during their tenure.

"This led to the presence, close to the party, of people with shady intentions. Allegations of favouritism grew and the Liberals were not able to deal with them convincingly," the editorial said.

The other major flaw in the Liberal record is the mismanagement of a number of files that "degenerated into crisis" and caused the government to lose popular support. "These weaknesses explain why a great number of Quebeckers are looking for change," La Presse said.

However, the paper is arguing that the Parti Québécois, which forms the official opposition in Quebec, is not fit to govern because of its left-wing agenda and its hostility toward the private sector. In addition, La Presse is arguing that the PQ's referendum strategy entails "sowing discord" by toughening up the province's language legislation and creating a Quebec citizenship.

In that context, the editorial called on Quebeckers who disapprove of the Liberal record to turn to the CAQ, a party that is less than a year old. While the paper argues that some of the party's policies are oversimplistic, the editorial applauded its promises to cut back on bureaucracy and increase education spending.

"It will certainly be harder to achieve than the party will admit, but its objectives can be lauded," the paper said in offering support to the CAQ at the expense of the PQ. "We understand the thirst for change of many Quebeckers. However, this thirst must not lead them to take unreasonable risks."

Mr. Charest tried to put the best face on the mixed endorsement, saying he read an "editorial that supported what the government has done."

Other newspapers have been less equivocal in dropping their longstanding support for Mr. Charest. The Globe and Mail endorsed Mr. Legault's CAQ, as did the National Post.

"I have the greatest respect for the Globe and Mail and National Post, but there aren't a lot of copies out here in St-Sevère," said Mr. Charest, while campaigning in a farming area about halfway between Quebec City and Montreal.

"What you call English Canada won't be voting on Sept. 4," Mr. Charest told a reporter.

With a file from Les Perreaux in Saint-Sevère, Que.

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