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Politics After two-day PQ retreat, Marois decides against snap election

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois announces her government will not launch a general election following a special cabinet meeting, Saturday, October 26, 2013 in Saint-Michel-des-Saints Que.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

After weeks of speculation, Pauline Marois says she's decided not to call a snap election in 2013.

The Quebec Premier announced the decision after a two-day retreat with her Parti Québécois cabinet.

"My government doesn't want a general election in 2013," she told reporters Saturday at the meeting in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, in the province's Lanaudiere region.

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"The population gave us a mandate and we will use it."

Marois said she plans to focus on implementing some of her party's policies, including the controversial proposed charter of values bill and electric-transport projects.

The PQ will also devote resources to fighting Ottawa over a court challenge to Bill 99, the provincial law that outlines Quebec's rules for secession from Canada, Marois said.

There had been rumours the minority PQ would call an election for Dec. 9 and make identity politics a key issue in the campaign.

But after a flurry of campaign-style announcements in recent weeks, the Premier concluded it was best not to call an election.

With only a minority, however, Marois doesn't entirely control the electoral timetable.

And the PQ could choose to make legislation such as the values charter a matter of confidence, forcing opposition parties to either go along with the proposal or trigger an election.

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Marois declared her party was in "solidarity" over the decision not to call a snap election, but members of her cabinet debated the issue late into Friday evening.

Pierre Duchesne, the minister for higher education, said the PQ ultimately decided to continue to push forward with its agenda.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Duchesne said.

"And it looks like Quebecers don't want an election either, from what I've seen."

The Premier did, however, announce two provincial by-elections in the Montreal ridings of Outremont and Viau.

Marois pressed the Leader of the Liberal opposition, Philippe Couillard, to run for one of the seats.

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The Quebec Liberals were quick to slam Marois on Saturday, accusing her of spending the last few weeks floating "electoral trial" balloons rather than governing.

Jean-Marc Fournier, the party's house leader, said Marois only backed down from calling an election after realizing she didn't have the necessary support.

A spokesman for the Coalition party, which holds the swing vote in the legislature, said the true test for the PQ will come when it opens the province's financial books. The party called for an immediate update on the economic situation.

Critics have accused the PQ of trying to avoid the economy by focusing on identity issues.

Opinion polls suggest the values charter remains particularly popular in the area just outside Montreal, where the Coalition managed to beat out the PQ in several ridings during the last election.

Overall, polls suggest an election could go any number of ways: the PQ could win a majority, remain a minority, or lose power altogether.

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