Couillard's Liberals prepare voter pitches as 2018 election nears - InfoNews

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Couillard's Liberals prepare voter pitches as 2018 election nears

November 26, 2017 - 3:09 PM

QUEBEC - More paid time off for workers, better services for English-speakers and a rapid transit line between Montreal and Quebec City were all part of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard's pitch to voters as his party met in Quebec City this weekend.

With an election planned for next October, Couillard appeared to be in campaign mode as he addressed voters and his party faithful at a Quebec Liberal party convention.

In a closing speech to 1,400 party members, he alluded to the weekend's workshops where party members discussed measures to support parents who still in school and bring in child-care that is better adapted to parents' needs.

"We will make a difference to the lives of family members," he promised.

He also alluded to his government's recent fiscal update, which included income tax cuts and a decision to send parents a $100 cheque to help pay for school supplies.

Speaking to reporters, Couillard explained that his party's decision to switch from belt-tightening measures to spending less than a year from the election was possible because his party had restored order to public finances.

"(At first) we concentrated on putting our house in order, which we did," he said.

"Everything I'm talking about -- health care, education, road traffic, work-life balance -- if you don't have sound public finances and a prosperous economy, it's nonsense, it's nothing, it's wind."

During the convention, Couillard's party adopted a resolution to ensure that any bills passed by his government would be assessed to determine their impact on the English-speaking community.

The premier also proposed the Montreal-Quebec City rapid transit line, without offering specifics of what it might look like.

Couillard also traded barbs with rival party leader Francois Legault, whose Coalition for Quebec's Future (CAQ) party held its own convention in Sherbrooke, Que. over the weekend.

The premier had harsh words for Legault's plan to offer money or tax credits to women who choose to have more than one child, describing it as "something out of last century."

Rather than offering monetary compensation, which he said amounts to "telling families what to do," Couillard said his own party would like to offer more paid time off to workers in order to make it easier for them to care for parents or relatives.

But earlier on Sunday, it was the Liberals' turn to be accused of living in the past.

CAQ justice spokesperson Simon Jolin-Barrette and other party members criticized Couillard's decision to invite former premier Jean Charest to address the Liberal convention, despite current investigations into allegations illegal party financing that occurred during Charest's time as leader.

Charest, who left politics in 2012, has never been charged, although his name occasionally resurfaces in connection with the anti-corruption unit's investigation.

In his speech, Charest reprimanded UPAC for leaking information to the media and failing to respect the principle of the presumption of innocence.

"It affects me. It affects my family. It affects people close to me," Charest said in the rare public appearance.

At one point he also joked about the public attention he gets, saying he checks the newspaper to find out what he himself is up to.

On Sunday, Jolin-Barrette accused Charest of "laughing" at the anti-corruption unit and thus disrespecting the work of police and the province's institutions.

He said Charest's appearance at the convention is also proof that nothing has changed in the Liberal party in recent years, despite Couillard's claims to the contrary.

"It's back to the future," he said. "They have nothing new to offer Quebecers."

-- With files from Caroline Plante in Sherbrooke, Que.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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