Charest uses referendum fears to motivate anglophone base
Published Friday, August 3, 2012 12:03PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 3, 2012 10:30PM EDT
MONTREAL -- Premier Jean Charest is drumming up fears of another referendum to motivate Quebec's English-speaking voters to turn out on election day in support of his Liberal party.
Charest says Anglos who stay home on election day could contribute to the victory of a sovereigntist party.
The message is designed to strike fear in the hearts of Anglo Quebecers, who have been loyal Liberal voters for years but who are now being courted by the upstart Coalition for Quebec's Future.
The Coalition is presenting itself as an alternative for voters fed up with the corruption allegations surrounding the governing Liberals. It says Anglos are taken for granted despite helping the Liberals repeatedly win Montreal ridings over the years.
Charest is now making repeated attempts to rally that base. He has been telling English media for the past two days that a failure to vote Liberal amounts to supporting a third referendum on Quebec's independence.
"If you want a referendum, vote for the others," Charest told reporters Friday.
"Or, in certain cases, you can stay at home, you don't vote and you could find yourself with a referendum by default because you didn't exercise your vote."
Charest pointed out that in the 2008 provincial election, there was a low voter turnout in many anglophone ridings.
The Liberal leader accuses the Coalition of being a sovereigntist party, even though it has promised to shelve the referendum issue.
The other main parties in Quebec -- the PQ, Quebec solidaire and Option nationale -- all support an independent Quebec.
But efforts by the CAQ to use the ethics card as leverage against the Liberals hit a snag Friday when the party's official representative resigned.
Marc Deschamps was involved in a real-estate transaction that prompted police to arrest nine people earlier this year for breach of trust.
Though he denies any wrongdoing, and wasn't among those charged, Deschamps says he didn't want to distract from the party transparent-government message.
The Coalition has promised that its first act in office would be a wide-ranging ethics bill that would create new oversight mechanisms for government spending.
An English-language leaders' debate, however, seems out of the question in this election. In an interview on radio station CJAD, Charest agreed to one. So did Coalition Leader Francois Legault. But PQ Leader Pauline Marois said she's not comfortable enough in English to debate in the language.