Charest calls PQ 'delusional' as race heats up
MONTREAL - Members of the separatist Parti Quebecois must be delirious if they think that federal transfers would continue in the aftermath of a yes vote on sovereignty, Quebec Premier Jean Charest said Sunday.
Charest ridiculed the sovereigntist platform, released over the weekend, for suggesting that the federal payments would continue while Quebec makes the transition from a province to a country in the aftermath of a yes vote in a referendum.
"It's not true that the federal government will continue to make transfer payments to Quebec," Charest said during a campaign stop at a school in Boucherville, Que., south of Montreal. "Forget it. It's delirium."
Charest also continued his attack on the PQ platform, released Saturday, for its omission of the word "referendum" in favour of the more palatable "public consultation."
And he urged Quebec voters to take a close look at what the promises of his political rivals would cost taxpayers.
Charest said the PQ underestimated by $1.8 billion the cost of its platform.
"I invite the citizens of Quebec to make a comparison with the rough draft presented by the Parti Quebecois," Charest told supporters.
"The Parti Quebecois will not be elected on the basis of this mandate," he said.
Boisclair campaigning east of Montreal, shot back when asked about Charest's comments on federal transfers.
"Jean Charest is telling us the transfer payments that will be announced during the election campaign will be taken away the day after the election," he said. "That's called (. . .) blackmail."
Boisclair defended the PQ platform and accused his Liberal opponent of avoiding the issues.
"For two days now Mr. Charest has been trying to have a debate on words with a dictionary, rather than on the ideas at the bottom of things," Boisclair told reporters.
"I think Quebecers see that Mr. Charest has nothing to offer."
Boisclair pledged aid for the struggling manufacturing industry, saying Liberal capital tax cuts will be more helpful to the banks.
Quebecers go to the polls on March 26.
Mario Dumont, leader of the Action democratique du Quebec, spoke to supporters about political and financial "autonomy" for Quebec, rather than separation.
During a campaign rally in Levis, just outside Quebec City, Dumont also said he wants the province to wield more constitutional power.
He called for the reopening of constitutional negotiations with Ottawa and other provinces.
Dumont attacked the close relationship between his Liberal rival and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying the Quebec premier seems more interested in pleasing Harper than wresting as much as he can for the province.
Charest called on Dumont to put some numbers to his campaign promises, saying he had offered nothing but "clips and cliches" so far in the campaign.
"We're five days into the campaign. The campaign is going to go by very rapidly. People need to know: Where will the money come from?" Charest said.
There are 125 seats up for grabs. At dissolution, the Liberals had 72 seats, the PQ 45 and the ADQ five. There was one independent member of the national assembly and two seats were vacant.
Francoise David, spokeswoman for Quebec solidaire, launched her own campaign Sunday by urging Quebec voters to dare to vote for the upstart party in its first election.
David did not have a figure for the cost of the party's largely social and environmental platform. She said it will be "a bit more expensive" than the $4.5 billion it's estimated the Liberal promises will cost.