The Premier of Quebec Jean Charest has triggered an election on September 4 after a meeting this morning with his cabinet. Charest's Liberal government has slumped in polls as investigations continue into corruption in the Quebec construction industry.
Quebec premier Jean Charest is the longest-serving premier of any province. However, he is facing a fierce battle this time around. Not only are there damaging corruption investigations ongoing but many citizens are upset by the harsh conditions imposed on demonstrators by Bill 78. The bill created even more demonstrations by students and others.
The main opposition is the Parti Quebecois (PQ) led by Pauline Marois. The party is for the independence of Quebec as Wikipedia notes:.The Parti Québécois (PQ) is a centre-left provincial political party that advocates national sovereignty for the province of Quebec and secession from Canada. The Party traditionally has support from the labour movement. Marois has been party leader since 2007.
At a news conference this morning Marois set out her separatist views:"We prefer that Quebec be a normal country. We choose freedom," . "In the coming weeks, it will be our turn to choose. It is not Canada's duty to pick our government for us, it's our turn to decide by voting."
The Parti Quebecois also faces opposition from The Coalition Avenir Quebec formed early this year. The new party has merged with the existing Action Democratique du Quebec. Polls show that the party is trailing the two main parties. There are other parties as well in the contest. Charest has been in power since 2003 and is attempting to win a fourth term.
While not endorsing any party student leaders will campaign against Charest and the Liberals. Student organizations hope to see the government replaced. Polls show the Liberals and Parti Quebecois neck in neck with about 32 per cent support each while the Coalition Avenir Quebec is in third place with 20 per cent.
An important issue in the election will be the tuition hikes that brought long and sustained protests against the government. While the majority of citizens actually supported a hike there was strong reaction against the harsh terms of Bill 81 that severely restricted protests with stiff fines for violation of the regulations.
Luc Turgeon a professor at the University of Ottawa said:"This election is about the future of the province,"...."What has transpired in Quebec in the last few months is a bit of a social crisis." Many of the student organizations were concerned with more than just tuition. They were concerned about job prospects and the future of the province. Their concerns brought them support from some labor unions. Turgeon said there would be a debate about austerity programs and cuts to entitlements versus other strategies to cut the huge deficit the province faces.
The Charest government also faces corruption charges. Key Liberal politicians appear linked to questionable deals with the construction industry. The election will occur before an inquiry into corruption will resume later in September.
Charest will attempt to portray the Parti Quebecois as wishing to immediately have a referendum on Quebec sovereignty. Polls shows that as of now of those who have made up their mind 62 per cent would vote against separation. No doubt jobs and the economy loom larger in the minds of many voters. Even if elected the Parti Quebecois is likely to put off any referendum until polls are more in their favor. The campaign promises to be quite heated with no clear winner at the start of campaigning.