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Pssst... Wanna see Jean Charest's re-election plan?

Quebec Premier Jean Charest walks to a cabinet meeting Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at the legislature in Quebec City. The Opposition denounced his election strategy during question period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC - If this was the launch of Premier Jean Charest's re-election message, it came out a little muddled.

A Power Point document, one which appears to drop a strong hint of what theme the Charest Liberals might be planning to campaign on, was obtained by the opposition — who promptly sent it to the media and attacked its contents.

The document suggests Charest is preparing to fit the ongoing street protests into a broader election narrative. The opposition PQ says the plan was presented last week at a closed-door Liberal gathering.

Under the headline "Ballot question," the document cites the planned election message as follows: "Jean Charest and the Liberal team with the northern (development) plan and job-creation? (Or) Pauline Marois and the PQ with a sovereignty referendum and the streets?"

Such a theme would come as no surprise, given that it stems from messages the premier has been repeatedly delivering in recent weeks.

But in that time Charest has repeatedly — even angrily — denied that he might be trying to let a social crisis fester so that he could use it to his electoral advantage.

So the release of that Power Point document had Charest on the defensive today in a scrum with reporters. And it allowed the opposition to launch attacks against his statesmanship.

One Pequiste, Stephane Bedard, said it's clear that the Liberal campaign is based on tarring the PQ as the party of social disorder — and that the only way to do that is to make sure the social disorder lingers. PQ Leader Pauline Marois said the premier was tearing at Quebec's social fabric for his own partisan purposes.

Charest called the accusation surreal. He said it's a bit rich for his opponents, who have occasionally been out in the street protesting themselves, and who wear the red square in support of the student protesters, to be accusing him of causing unrest.

One other thing remains unclear: how did the opposition get its hands on such a document? Another opposition party, the CAQ, gleefully speculated that perhaps the vaunted discipline of Charest's troops was finally showing cracks, and that a Liberal leaked it.

An election is expected as early as September. Charest, who would be seeking a rare fourth term, must hold one by the end of 2013.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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