Liberals promise new jobs, PQ vow to stop tuition hike
Published Thursday, August 2, 2012 10:57AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 2, 2012 5:44PM EDT
Quebec Liberal party leader Jean Charest promised to create 250,000 new jobs over the next term if his party is re-elected in the Sept. 4 election.
In an announcement released Thursday, the premier also committed to reducing the province’s unemployment rate to 6 per cent by 2017.
Quebec’s unemployment rate currently sits at 7.8 per cent, which is comparable to the rates in Ontario and Canada and significantly lower than when Charest took office in 2003.
Charest called it a first in 30 years.
In a news release, he described the unemployment rate as “an outstanding performance,” taking into account the world-wide financial and economic crisis.
Charest’s job plan calls for 50,000 of the new jobs to be “green jobs,” which will double the number of green jobs in Quebec.
Part of the Liberals’ action plan includes job growth in the “Plan Nord” – a strategy that will see the development of natural resources in north Quebec. Charest called Plan Nord one of the world’s largest sustainable development projects that will showcase the province’s full economic potential.
The action plan also includes growth in the Quebec’s manufacturing, forestry, tourism, cultural and bio-food sectors as well as expanding trade opportunities with emerging countries and Europe.
Quebec’s election race heated up Thursday, with the Parti Quebecois announcing that it would scrap the Liberal government’s controversial university funding plan within 100 days of taking power if it wins the election.
PQ leader Pauline Marois said that she would eliminate the tuition hike, cancel the emergency protest law Bill 78 and call a summit on university funding.
Marois made the promises while accompanied by one of the leaders of the Quebec student protest movement, Leo Bureau-Blouin, who is now running for the PQ party.
Marois said the students shouldn’t be blamed for the political unrest Quebec has seen through the last several months, rather she said it’s the fault of the Charest Liberal government.
“I'm sorry, but Mr. Charest is profoundly responsible for what is going on right now," she said.
Marois accused the premier of manipulating the student issue and calling a summer election, to head to the polls before a corruption inquiry returns from its summer break on Sept. 17.
While the campaign is still very much in the early stages, a political science professor said Charest began the election run right on message.
“Economic issues are front and centre for all voters in every election,” Bruce Hicks of Concordia University told CTV News Channel Thursday afternoon. “But we know that voters vote retrospectively on the economy. What Charest wants to do is not remind them of the recession and the problems, but get them worried about a change in government and what a PQ government will mean in terms of job loss with the threat of sovereignty.”
Hicks said those opposed to the Liberal’s tuition increase are planning to take their message to the ballot box, however he doesn’t expect the student protests to continue throughout the campaign.
Hicks said the violence and property damage that has accompanied the Quebec marches could sway voters to cast their ballot for Charest, who’s been portrayed as standing up to the students.
“I think the student leaders are very aware of this,” said Hicks. “I think while they had this big demonstration on the first day, that’s to remind everyone that they’re there and they’re a factor.”
Early polls show that the Liberals and the PQ are tied, each taking 30 per cent of the vote.
Hicks said the Coalition Avenir Quebec party, formed in 2011, will try to remind voters of the construction corruption scandal that’s currently the subject of a public inquiry.
“But that party is trying to tap into the issue of corruption and that the Charest government cannot be trusted,” said Hicks.
With files from The Canadian Press