With two public opinion polls showing her party in the lead, especially among vital francophone voters, Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois said her party was more ready than ever to form the next government.
"The Parti Québécois is the only credible party capable of removing the Liberals from power," Ms. Marois said during a campaign stop in Quebec City.
The race appears to be getting tighter as Jean Charest's Liberals failed to make inroads and the Coalition Avenir Quebec was building momentum, at least according to one of the two polls released Friday. Asked about a possible three-way race, Ms. Marois said the PQ was the only party with the experience and the integrity to replace the governing Liberals and offer a viable alternative. She then turned her attacks against CAQ leader François Legault, who has become the main target of the PQ campaign in the past two days.
"I have the experience of having been the minister of several ministries and in implementing government policies," Ms. Marois said. "I will resist the temptation of following Mr. Legault in announcing reckless spending initiatives. How is he going to pay for $4.3-billion dollars in program spending he has promised since the beginning of the campaign?"
Ms. Marois refused to directly comment on the poll numbers. But there was no doubt in her response to questions from journalists that Ms. Marois was targeting voter volatility, which continues to be a major concern for the PQ. Ms. Marois fears Quebeckers who may be considering abandoning the Liberals will be tempted to support the CAQ rather than her party.
"The only alternative capable of governing Quebec and who can do it honestly and with integrity and who can offer a clear vision with social and economic policies, is the Parti Québécois," Ms. Marois insisted.
Ms. Marois' attacks against Mr. Legault, a former PQ cabinet minister, have grown harsher with each passing day. "He is like a weather vane," Ms. Marois said of her former colleague, who was once a defender of sovereignty.
"People are fed up with a corrupt government that has wasted their money and can't rigorously manage their taxes….People of Quebec want a responsible government and not one that promises all kinds of things with monopoly money. That is what Mr. Legault is doing."
Ms. Marois made the comments after unveiling her promise to abolish the $200-a-year health tax introduced by the Liberals. Each Quebec wage earner pays the health tax regardless of their annual income. It was a promise she had made repeatedly even before the election was called on Aug. 1.
Ms. Marois explained that it was important to repeat her party's commitments to make sure her message was getting through to voters. "People aren't listening," she said. "We need to repeat what we have to say."
The CAQ has been weathering the attacks, keeping itself in the headlines with generous promises of tax cuts, bold initiatives in supporting families and education as well as trying to hold the upper hand on the issue of government integrity after recruiting anti-corruption crusader Jacques Duchesneau.
On Friday, the CAQ released its campaign's first television advertisements that strike to the heart of the corruption issue. The ad suggests that the Liberals and the PQ will do nothing once elected to stop corruption in the province. "We will clean house because we are the only ones that don't owe anything to anyone," Mr. Legault states bluntly in the ad.
Other CAQ candidates, such as Mr. Duchesneau, call for a major shake-up in the funding of political parties. "With us, the public inquiry won't just fizzle out," he said.
"We are being robbed" CAQ candidate Sylvie Roy said bluntly. "Quebec is sick," added another CAQ star candidate, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, former head of the Quebec federation of medical specialists.
Despite several promises on the social and economic front, the CAQ was signalling to its opponents that corruption will be the driving force in its campaign strategy. The party is determined to shift the tide of the campaign in its favour and win over support by sticking to the issue of government integrity and portraying the PQ and the Liberals as being part of the same "corrupt" system that has shaken voter confidence.