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New party could change look of Quebec politics

Former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister Francois Legault announces the creation of a new political party, the Coalition pour l'avenir du Quebec, at a news conference in Quebec City, Monday, February 21, 2011 .

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The man public opinion polls suggest could become the next premier of Quebec has now registered his political party and is poised to change the face of politics in the province.

Former Parti Québécois minister François Legault filed the signatures of 150 eligible voters with the Chief Electoral Officer on Tuesday as part of the process toward official recognition of his party. The provincial electoral law states that once the identity of 100 supporters is authenticated, a party receives official recognition.

The new political formation, called the Coalition-Avenir-Quebec, or CAQ, may even be in a position to form a caucus in the Quebec National Assembly before Christmas. Mr. Legault's efforts at recruiting MNA's from other parties has made it possible, according to organizers, to attract at least seven and perhaps as many as eleven current sitting members to the CAQ.

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The number of MNA's Mr. Legault succeeds in seducing will largely depend on whether the embattled Pauline Marois survives as PQ Leader. She is facing increasingly vocal dissent from members of her own caucus, as well as party riding association members.

A poll conducted last week by Léger Marketing for Quebecor Media Inc. showed that Ms. Marois ranked far behind Mr. Legault in popularity. In fact Mr. Legault has built such a commanding lead that he could sweep the province in an election and relegate the PQ to near political oblivion.

But, according to the Léger poll, if former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe replaces Ms. Marois, he would have a chance at defeating Mr. Legault and Premier Jean Charest's struggling Liberals. The poll numbers further undermine Ms. Marois, whose days as PQ Leader may be numbered, according to PQ MNA Claude Pinard.

Mr. Legault's new party will be launched on Nov. 14 in Quebec City, the result of nine months of preparation aimed at bringing federalists and sovereigntists together under a single political banner.

"We had to register the party before officially launching it, otherwise we could have been in violation of the Quebec election law," said Martin Koskinen, a spokesperson for Mr. Legault. " It is still a coalition and once it officially becomes a party then Mr. Legault on Nov. 14 will reveal what he plans to do next."

Mr. Koskinen added that the party would not have enough time or money to field a candidate in a by-election in the Gaspé riding of Bonaventure if it is held before the end of the year. Mr. Charest was expected to call the by-election soon.

Mr. Legault, a largely uncharismatic figure, attracted attention when he defended the case made by his political mentor, former PQ premier Lucien Bouchard, that Quebec political independence was an idea whose time had passed. Mr. Legault invited supporters of all political stripes to join him in order to "move forward" with a "new" right-of-centre agenda aimed at tackling issues such as education, language, health care and the economy.

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He has received the backing of several leading figures in the business community, largely recruited by the coalition's co-founder, Montreal entrepreneur Charles Sirois, a former campaign organizer for Mr. Charest's Liberals.

And when the party obtains official recognition in the coming weeks, Mr. Legault will be in a position to accept political donations, set up a headquarters and adopt a party program based on the action plan he presented in public meetings during a recent tour of 17 regions of Quebec.

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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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