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Quebec parties target swing ridings in final election blitz

Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois and her husband Claude Blanchet are pictured in Beaupre, Que., on September 4, 2012.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

With only five days of campaigning left, Quebec party leaders are into their final blitz, as the Liberals and the Parti Québécois take aim at some of their traditional strongholds that swung over to the Coalition Avenir Québec in the most recent election.

There are also a handful of hotly contested swing ridings being targeted by the three main parties.

The strategies used in the last days before the April 7 vote to reconquer or salvage those seats will say a great deal about the strength and weaknesses of their campaigns.

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PQ Leader Pauline Marois is striking hard at ridings held by the Coalition Avenir Québec in areas north and south of the Island of Montreal, where she is spending most of the final week of the campaign.

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard is taking aim at the Quebec City region, all but abandoned by the PQ, leaving the CAQ in a two-way race to salvage its traditional base of support in Quebec City. The CAQ is also trying to hold onto seats it won the last time in the suburbs outside of Montreal.

And all eyes are on central Quebec in the ridings around Trois-Rivières, Drummondville and Sherbrooke. The region's seats are held by a mix of all three parties and had several close races the last election. The Liberals and the PQ have been in and out of the region almost every other day, hoping to turn enough CAQ supporters to make important gains.

The campaign was marked by controversies over national unity, ethnic and linguistic minorities and corruption. So much so that Mr. Couillard lamented that his daily policy announcements have passed with little notice.

"I smile when people say this election has had no proposals. We've made one every day since the start," Mr. Couillard said. "We really have to try to avoid falling into cynicism."

The Liberals aren't the only ones that have been the target of attacks. According to an anonymous source in a Radio-Canada news report, Ms. Marois's husband, Claude Blanchet, allegedly participated in PQ fundraising activities that may have violated Quebec's election law.

Ms. Marois and Mr. Blanchet denied the charges. His lawyer, Richard Vachon, was considering taking court action claiming the report was "libellous and defamatory." Mr. Vachon specializes in defamation lawsuits having successfully represented media magnate and now PQ candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau in a lawsuit against the Société Radio-Canada.

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Ms. Marois denied the allegations and quickly portrayed herself and her party as victims of those seeking vengeance.

She argued that those involved in political kickbacks and fraud conspired to undermine her integrity and stop the PQ from taking office to pursue its campaign to eradicate corruption.

She offered no specific names but argued that a lot a people have an axe to grind with the PQ. "I don't know who exactly … but I know there are people who have a vested interest in making sure that the Parti Québécois is not returned to power," Ms. Marois said while campaigning in Drummondville. "There are major Quebec companies that suffered deeply by the actions we took … I wonder who is behind the denunciation … For sure it hurts the Parti Québécois. Why? Is it because they don't want the Parti Québécois to return to power, is it because they would prefer the Liberals? That is my question."

Mr. Couillard said he would not presume anyone was guilty in the Blanchet affair, but he said it exposed the hypocrisy of Ms. Marois, who has spent the campaign saying the PQ was above the dodgy financing practices of the Liberals.

"I would just note the dissonance between what we've heard and the declarations of purity of the Parti Québécois over the past two or three years," Mr. Couillard said just before giving an economic speech in Montreal.

According to Ms. Marois, the former Liberal government was to blame for the nasty state of Quebec politics in which the current campaign has unfolded. Had Jean Charest held a public inquiry into corruption sooner it would have appeased public opinion, she said. "This has to be the most negative campaign ever," Ms. Marois said.

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About the Authors
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

National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More


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