Philippe Couillard has launched a critique of his opponents' campaign style, saying they will pay at the polls April 7 for their vitriol.
The Liberal Leader usually avoids getting into detail about the stylistic choices of other campaigns, but it seemed he is fed up with the repeated attacks against him for his one-time friendship and business partnership with health-care executive Arthur Porter who is in a Panamanian prison awaiting extradition to face fraud charges.
Mr. Couillard was particularly angry about Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois describing Dr. Porter and the Liberal leader as "birds of a feather" after Mr. Porter gave an interview saying he still considers Mr. Couillard a friend and that he would make a great premier.
"It's such a mediocre way to talk about someone else," Mr. Couillard said at a campaign event Thursday. "Quebeckers judge people. When you're in front of people for 33 days, not much gets past them. When you use that tone, when you use those words, it is a very negative impression to the people. It says you're ready to try anything: insults, debasement, guilt by association. It would be easy for me to answer with the same tone. I won't."
An Ipsos Reid poll published Thursday showed Mr. Couillard's Liberals are leading Ms. Marois's PQ by nine points and are tied in voter intentions among francophones – results that would give the Liberals a majority government if the support held until voting day. The PQ was the frontrunner when the election was called nearly a month ago.
"If some mornings Ms. Marois finds her campaign a bit difficult, there you have the reason," Mr. Couillard said. "Citizens don't like it, and I'm hearing it everywhere."
Mr. Couillard and Dr. Porter struck up a partnership in 2010, when Mr. Couillard was leaving politics and Dr. Porter was the head of the McGill University Health Centre.
"You always have to remember we look at this through the glasses of 2014. In 2010, Mr. Porter was a highly respected person in Montreal, to the extent that people wanted to name a street after him," Mr. Couillard said. "Let's go back in time and see the situation as it was."
Allegations first surfaced in September 2012 that Dr. Porter and five others plotted with executives of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. to use $22.5-million in company funds for international kickbacks. The kickback scheme was connected to construction of the $1.3-billion MUHC.
Dr. Porter, who says he has cancer, has maintained his innocence.