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Opposition parties gearing up to take down Charest’s Liberals

Protesters hit casserole pans in front of a Charest mascot to protest against tuition hikes on Wednesday May 30, 2012 in Quebec City.


The election machines that propel Quebec's political parties are running, but they're not quite revving into the red zone just yet.

Jean Charest is already off, making announcements in far-flung corners of Quebec, but the other main party leaders and campaign organizers were taking some time away from public appearances on Wednesday.

François Legault, the leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec, and Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois were taking a few days off to rest. Other people in leadership positions were quietly making behind-the-scene preparations for a campaign widely expected to begin Aug. 1.

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At the offices of the CAQ, the upstart right-leaning party that has replaced the Action démocratique du Québec on the political spectrum, party president and star candidate Dominque Anglade welcomed a trickle of volunteers Wednesday in preparation for the official campaign launch.

"We'll be geared up and ready to go," said Ms. Anglade, an engineer and business consultant who stepped down from the head of her company in January to become party president.

Being ready to go is a slightly more modest affair for the CAQ, which, she said, hopes to run on a campaign budget of "a couple million dollars," a far cry from the $8.6-million the Liberals spent in 2009.

Rather than set up the traditional offices in each of 125 ridings, the party will open regional offices to save on rent and administration. But it has a campaign bus ready and is pushing candidates hard for local fund-raising.

While a summer election is unusual in Quebec's recent history, Ms. Anglade said her party circled the first two weeks of August as soon as the April window for a vote passed. There have been rumours of an election call for the past few months.

"There was no way Premier Charest was going to face an election after Sept. 17, when the Charbonneau commission [into corruption] resumes. After Sept 17, it all goes down the drain for him," she said.

The PQ has announced 90 of 125 candidates. "We had our major rehearsal in April," said party spokesman Éric Gamache. "When we push the button, we'll be ready to go 24 hours later."

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The Liberals shot publicity photos on the weekend, and set a deadline for the end of the month for each riding to have office space rented. Mr. Charest has been busy this week touting his Plan Nord for natural resource development and announcing spending on infrastructure to pave the way.

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