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Veteran Moreau launches campaign built around Quebec's young Liberals

Former Quebec transport minister Pierre Moreau announces his candidacy for the leadership of the Quebec Liberals Monday, October 1, 2012 in Chateauguay, Que.


His face may be slightly fresher than those of his rivals in the Quebec Liberal Party leadership race, but the latest challenger to replace Jean Charest is neither a neophyte nor a political outsider.

Pierre Moreau, a 54-year-old former government whip and transport minister, was backed by at least nine caucus members Monday as he entered the field to head Quebec's federalist provincial party.

Mr. Moreau's term in government ended with him in the hot seat of Quebec's Transport Ministry, which has been at the centre of corruption allegations linked to contracting and the construction industry.

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The Liberals established the Charbonneau commission to examine those allegations. So far, the City of Montreal has borne the brunt of scrutiny and bombshell allegations.

Mr. Moreau said he is confident there was no mess to clean up when he arrived in Transport in September, 2011.

"We received three independent reports and 80 recommendations," Mr. Moreau said in an interview. "We implemented all of them. I'm proud that in Quebec we're taking proper action. It's not in the Transport department that the problems are."

Mr. Moreau was surrounded by young Liberals as he announced his campaign Monday, and he is promising to build his campaign on them.

In addition to much-needed enthusiasm, Liberal youth carry an outsized, one-third portion of the Liberal membership cards that will ultimately decide party leadership at an old-fashioned delegate convention in the spring.

"It's not only a strategy, if it was just a strategy it would be a bad idea," said Mr. Moreau, who announced his candidacy in his riding in Châteauguay, a suburb to the southwest of Montreal.

Despite first being elected in 2003, Mr. Moreau is relatively unknown compared to his two rivals, even if he is only slightly younger and less experienced. One of his backers, Pierre Arcand, maintains he "represents something new for the Liberal Party. He's a great team player as well."

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Former finance minister Raymond Bachand, 64, announced last week he will run. Former health minister Philippe Couillard, 55, regarded as the likely front-runner, said he will announce his candidacy on Wednesday.

Any of the three likely leaders will have to rebuild Liberal credibility amid corruption allegations. They will also have to find a way to rebuild links with Quebec's francophone majority.

In pre-election polls, only 19 per cent would admit supporting the Liberals, lagging behind the party's actual result in the Sept. 4 vote, when it won 50 seats, just four short of forming government. More than half of the seats were won in francophone-majority ridings.

"Clearly more than 19 per cent of francophones supported us," Mr. Moreau said. "Why won't people declare their support for us? We have to convince people to be proud to be Liberal."

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