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Charest unveils plan to create 250,000 jobs in Quebec

Quebec Premier Jean Charest waves from his minivan as he leaves a meeting with the province's lieutenant-governor Wednesday, August 1, 2012 in Quebec City.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Liberal Leader Jean Charest is promising to create 250,000 jobs over the course of his next mandate and bring down the unemployment rate in Quebec to 6 per cent.

Campaigning on economic themes, Mr. Charest is putting jobs at the centre of his campaign in the province that currently has an unemployment rate of 7.7 per cent.

In making the announcement, Mr. Charest praised his record over the last nine years.

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"Under a Liberal government, the unemployment rate has been lower in a period of economic crisis than under a PQ government in a time of growth," he said.

The promise is reminiscent of the platform of former Liberal leader Robert Bourassa in the early 1970s, when he promised the creation of 100,000 jobs and earned the nickname "Bob la Job."

Mr. Charest promised that 50,000 of the new jobs would be "green" and located within the province's environmental sector. He said that 400,000 jobs have been created since 2003, and that reaching 250,000 over a single mandate is "ambitious," but feasible.

He boasted about Quebec's good standing with credit-rating agencies and its recent economic growth, arguing the province has outperformed the European Union, the United States and the Canadian average since 2008.

He said that specific measures to actually reach his objective between now and 2017 will be provided throughout the campaign.

"We've established a target to start with," he said.

Mr. Charest pointed to the Quebec government's numerous economic levers and its family policy, including affordable daycares that help women join the workforce, as key elements in past successes.

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While he said that the jobs will be created by the private sector, Mr. Charest defended his government's decision to try and block the takeover of Rona Inc. by U.S-based hardware giant Lowe's.

Mr. Charest said that Rona makes over 80 per cent of its purchases in Canada and that government intervention is necessary in this case.

"Every case will be judged on its merits, every case is different, it depends on a number of factors. Rona is an extremely important contributor to the economy of Quebec in terms of its purchases, not only within Quebec but also within Canada," he said.

On other issues, Mr. Charest give his government good grades of 8 out of 10 in the fields of healthcare and the fight against corruption. The Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec are both arguing that the government has failed in both those fields.

Mr. Charest is attributing much of the future job growth to his "Plan Nord," a strategy to facilitate the development of natural resources in the province's north. The plan is designed to be Mr. Charest's political legacy, spanning over generations, much like the development of Quebec's hydro-electrical potential under Mr. Bourassa and other Quebec governments.

Mr. Charest insists that the Plan Nord will benefit the north, but also companies in southern Quebec that will be called upon to offer goods and services to the various projects.

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Mr. Charest is announcing his jobs plan as his rivals are focusing on corruption in the construction industry and the need to solve the student crisis that paralyzed parts of the province in the spring.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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