Volume 96, Issue 87
Friday, March 14, 2003

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Quebec election a three-horse race

By Pierre Hamilton
Gazette Staff

Election if necessary, but not necessarily an election.

March 12 marked an important date in the future of Canada's "distinct" province, as Premier Bernard Landry announced that Quebec would hold a provincial election on Apr. 14.

According to a poll conducted by CROP Inc. and published in The Globe and Mail, the premier and his Parti Québécois (42 per cent) maintain a small lead over the Liberal Party (34 per cent), headed by longtime political junkie, Jean Charest. The Action Democratique du Quebec, led by Mario Dumont and riding a recent arrival on the province's political landscape, is nipping at the heels of both established parties, with 24 per cent of the public's support.

In a political environment rife with concerns over federalism and sovereignty, this election marks the first in which these issues will take a back seat to health care, fiscal responsibility and a population poised for change, said Paul Nesbitt-Larking, an assistant professor in political science at Huron University College.

With 125 available seats, the three parties are clamouring to secure voters in what will ultimately be a tightly-run race to the steps of the National Assembly.

The results of this election could prove upsetting, especially for Landry and Charest, both of whose political careers have reached the end of their respective ropes. "I certainly think that [Charest] faces a serious challenge [in this election]," Nesbitt-Larking explained.

This marks the first election to include the Dumont led ADQ, whose neo-liberal political platform is causing voters to re-examine their allegiances to the two parties that have dominated the political landscape in the past.

"[The ADQ] arrived on the scene because voters were tired of the other two parties and how they represent the debate between sovereignty and separatism," said Western political science professor Bob Young.

With the main election issue being fiscal responsibility, the ADQ has introduced what assistant professor Nesbitt-Larking referred to as "a question of change and political responsibility." With a young leader and a platform that reaches out to Quebec's multicultural population, the ADQ's presence in this election forces the agenda, he added.

According to an article written by Sue Abidi, ADQ Anglophone/cultural communities media relations officer, "[The ADQ mark] the first time in Quebec politics that you have a viable option that spans across the province."

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