Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois attacked the nationalist credentials of her main opponent Liberal leader Philippe Couillard accusing him of failing to stand-up for Quebec.
Speaking to about 700 party members gathered to adopt the PQ's election platform, Ms. Marois said Mr. Couillard "thinks, speaks and acts like the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada" rather than a guardian of Quebec values.
"I heard him defend Canada and Canadian citizenship with passion. But not once did I hear the new Liberal leader fight to defend the interest of the Quebec nation with the same passion, the same force," Ms. Marois said.
She added that even the PQ's onetime archrival former Liberal leader Jean Charest was a stronger defender of Quebec interests than Mr. Couillard.
Ms. Marois warned voters that should the Liberals win the April 7 vote Mr. Couillard will move quickly to sign the 1982 Canadian Constitution without consulting Quebecers first which would "lock Quebec's status as that of a simple province."
"We are still waiting for the Liberal leader to make a commitment to consult Quebecers before taking such a crucial decision," she said as the PQ delegates chanted with passion "we want our country."
The delegates unanimously adopted a party platform similar to one the PQ presented voters in 2012 campaign. It makes no firm commitment to hold another referendum on sovereignty in the upcoming mandate should the PQ win a majority government. It simply reiterated a vague commitment that a PQ government would hold a referendum on sovereignty at "the time the government deemed to be appropriate."
Ms. Marois noted that almost 20 years have passed since the last referendum on sovereignty and that the time had come for Quebec to reflect on its political future and take whatever was time is needed to weigh its options.
"I would like for sovereignty to come as soon as possible but we won't rush Quebecers," the PQ leader promised. "We will resume the discussion. In the next mandate a Parti Québécois government will table a white paper on the future of Québec. But before that we have an election campaign to win."
The possibility of a PQ majority government has raised eyebrows in the rest of Canada. News reports showed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was getting prepared for a PQ majority government by contacting political leaders in other provinces as part of a concerted effort to respond to a sovereigntist victory.
The PQ welcomed the challenge saying it was a good thing for the rest of Canada to finally take notice of Quebec. Some PQ ministers even appeared to be taunting leaders in the rest of Canada to speak-out during the election saying it may even help boost support for sovereignty.
"I would remind federalist leaders and Premiers that they intervened in the 1995 referendum, organized a big lovefest and after that nothing happened," said PQ Minister of International Affairs Jean-François Lisée, who acted as a senior advisor in the last referendum.
"I think Quebecers are a bit skeptical of things that might be said during a Quebec election campaign by leaders in the rest of Canada because they don't have a good track record of following through. But we'll wait and see."Mr. Lisée added.
In the party platform the PQ stated that it wasn't seeking a confrontation with Ottawa but rather blamed the federal government of provoking controversies. For instance changes to the employment insurance program, manpower training or a proposal for a national securities commission created tensions with Quebec. If elected the PQ promises to win back powers from Ottawa including Quebec's share of budget in the Canadian International Development Agency in order for the province to set-up its own international agency.
And if elected the PQ will move on the political agenda it has already introduced as a minority government including the adoption of a secular charter banning overt religious symbols in the public service, adopting a new language law as well as end-of-life legislation allowing euthanasia under strict conditions.
Ms. Marois was expected to spend the next few days detailing several of the promises outlined in the party platform