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Posted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:07 pm Post subject: New provincial political party created in Quebec
New Quebec party enters the scene, threatens establishment
By Brian Daly, QMI Agency
Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) co-founder Francois Legault reacts during a news conference with his co-founder Charles Sirois (R) at the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City, November 14, 2011. Legault and Sirois announced the creation of their new provincial political party on Monday. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
MONTREAL -- A former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister unveiled a federalist-sovereigntist coalition party on Monday, a new player that threatens to turn divisive Quebec politics on its head.
Francois Legault, who quit politics two years ago, says he will bury his sovereigntist convictions to focus on paying down Quebec's debt, eliminating school and health boards and cleaning up corruption in politics.
Polls have suggested many Quebecers are tired of the 50-year-old national-unity debate and could be ready to embrace Legault's centrist party, called Coalition Avenir Quebec (Coalition for the Future of Quebec).
"For more than 40 years, we've been forced to define ourselves primarily as sovereigntists or federalists," the former accountant and businessman told a news conference in Quebec City.
"I'm not here to promote sovereignty or to try to have a new constitutional deal. People are not interested in dealing with this question in the near future. They want us to deal with health care, education, culture, and to clean up public life."
Polls suggest Legault's party could create waves unlike anything seen since the PQ first stormed to power in 1976.
Voters appear tired of seemingly endless scandals under Premier Jean Charest, but they're also turning their backs on the PQ and its insistence on promoting separation.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois questioned her ex-colleague's loyalty and courage Monday.
"This is ... someone who literally stabbed (PQ premier) Bernard Landry in the back for not going far enough (on sovereignty)," she told reporters in Quebec City.
"I'm not worried. Sovereigntists, who are real sovereigntists, will continue to work in the Parti Quebecois."
Marois's apparent lack of worry comes as she fends off calls for her resignation as support for separation dips along with PQ support in the polls.
Legault, meanwhile, has topped some polls as he openly courts disgruntled former MNAs from the Liberals, PQ and the right-leaning Action democratique (ADQ).
He also said he's pursuing merger talks with the ADQ, a right-leaning party that formed the official Opposition as recently as 2009 but has since been reduced to a handful of seats.
There's also speculation that the Coalition for the Future of Quebec might lure big names including former Conservative senator and cabinet minister Michael Fortier.
QMI Agency political analyst Eric Duhaime said Legault will be the No. 1 target of the PQ and Liberals, who are worried about his broad-based appeal.
"It's a baptism by fire as of now," said Duhaime. "The striptease is over. There are certainly little skeletons that (the PQ) will bring out at the opportune time."
Charest doesn't have to call an election until April 2013, but experts suggest the premier might drop the writ this spring before Legault can get organized.
Francois Legault in a nutshell:
Born: May 26, 1957, in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., on Montreal's west island.
Education: MBA, HEC Business School.
Career achievements: Co-founded Air Transat from the ashes of Nationair in 1987. Air Transat became one of Canada's largest airlines. Earned millions when he sold his shares in 1997.
Political career: Elected to the Quebec legislature in his first campaign for the Parti Quebecois in 1998 under then-premier Lucien Bouchard. Held major portfolios including health, education and labour. Retired from politics in 2009 after six years in opposition.
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