QUEBEC - Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois came under some unexpected fire on Thursday — from one of her own party's high-profile candidates.

Serge Cardin, who is running against Liberal Leader Jean Charest in the Sherbrooke riding, said Marois' gender could thwart her ambitions of becoming premier.

The former Bloc Quebecois MP said some people might not be ready for a woman premier.

He told the Cogeco radio network he is ''greatly disappointed'' by such an attitude.

Marois said later that Cardin's comments were misinterpreted.

''I am persuaded that Quebecers are altogether ready to accept the political leadership of a woman," she said on the hustings.

As for Cardin, he issued a statement to say his remarks did not properly reflect his thoughts on the matter.

He called Marois ''the most competent (leader) to be premier — and that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact she's a woman.''

Charest also chipped in on the debate, saying he can't believe ''for one second that people still vote in terms of a candidate's gender.''

Cardin's comments echoed those of Claude Pinard, who said last November that a significant portion of the electorate wouldn't vote for Marois because she is a woman.

Pinard, a PQ member of the national assembly at the time, is not seeking re-election.

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  • "Rather than being a distinct province, we would prefer that Quebec become a normal country." <a href="http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/facts-about-parti-quebecois-leader-pauline-marois-164599816.html" target="_hplink">Source: Canadian Press</a> <em>Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois makes a speech for the announcement of new candidates, during a press conference held at Montreal on July 31, 2012. </em>

  • EDUCATION

    Bachelor's degree in social services from Universite Laval; master's in business administration from l'Ecole des hautes etudes commerciales in Montreal. <em>Pauline Marois, chief of the Parti Quebecois speaks to the supporters after the elections results announced at Olympia theater in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on December 8, 2008. Liberal Premier Jean Charest won a majority in Quebec elections Monday, spoiling a separatist comeback with a mandate to bolster the Canadian province's slowing economy, said television predictions. </em>

  • PROFESSIONAL CAREER

    Social services administrator from 1971 to 1979; political attache for PQ in 1978 and 1979; university professor, 1988. <em>Pauline Marois, chief of the Parti Quebecois speaks to her supporters after the elections results announced at Olympia theater in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on December 8, 2008. Liberal Premier Jean Charest won a majority in Quebec elections Monday, spoiling a separatist comeback with a mandate to bolster the Canadian province's slowing economy, said television predictions. </em>

  • POLITICAL CAREER

    First elected to legislature 1981; named to cabinet in 1982 as minister for status of women; ran for PQ leadership in 1985, losing to Pierre Marc Johnson; served in various senior cabinet positions in PQ governments from 1994 to 2003, including finance (1995-1996, 2001-2002), health (1998-2001); deputy premier (2001-2003); ran for PQ leadership in 2005, losing to Andre Boisclair; acclaimed as PQ leader in 2007; became leader of Official Opposition following 2008 provincial election. <em>Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois makes a speech for the announcement of new candidates, during a press conference held at Montreal on July 31, 2012. </em>

  • PERSONAL LIFE

    Married to Claude Blanchet, former head of Quebec government's investment arm. They have four children. <em>Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois stands outside her bus as she launches her campaign in Quebec City on Wednesday, August 1, 2012. Marois held a news conference before Premier Charest officially called an election. </em>



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  • Key Quebec Election Issues

    As Quebec begins a provincial election campaign, with a vote scheduled for Sept. 4, here are some key issues and the stated positions, so far, of the three largest parties: the Liberals, the Parti Quebecois and the Coalition for Quebec's Future.<br><br><em>With files from CP</em>

  • Student Strikes

    Liberals say their $254-a-year, seven-year tuition increases will improve universities while expanded loans and bursaries programs will actually leave the poorest students better off. Liberals have mostly refused to budge in face of protests, although their original proposal was for $325-a-year increases over five years. Their controversial Bill 78 would reopen classes in mid-August for one-third of students still on strike, while setting out severe fines for anyone blocking schools.<br><br>PQ has been more supportive of protesters and would cancel the hikes, propose smaller increases pegged to inflation and hold provincial summit on university funding.<br><br>The Coalition has positioned itself to occupy the middle ground, proposing more modest annual tuition increases of $200 a year over five years. Party originally voted for Bill 78 but now says it created unnecessary tension and wants some provisions suspended.

  • Ethics

    After two years of intense pressure, Charest Liberals called a corruption inquiry that is now probing malfeasance in construction industry and its ties to political parties and organized crime. Before that, they had announced plans to hire more oversight officials at Transport Department; tougher fines for engineering firms; stricter political fundraising laws; new rules for public-works tendering; and new anti-corruption squad that has since made numerous arrests.<br><br>PQ making ethics central plank of platform. It wants tougher legislation preventing companies guilty of tax evasion from winning public contracts. It also proposes new measures to combat voter cynicism including: citizen-initiated referendums, fixed election dates, political donations limited to $100 a year, and the right to vote at age 16.<br><br>The Coalition wants new integrity commissioner to oversee government contracts, and new powers for prosecutors, as part of a "big cleanup." It also promises fixed election dates.

  • Northern Development

    Liberals will tout Plan Nord, a sweeping plan that sets out $80 billion in public and private investments in mining, energy, infrastructure and conservation projects over a quarter-century.<br><br>PQ accuses Liberals of selling off Quebec's natural wealth at cut-rate prices and is calling for a 30 per cent surtax on profits from non-renewable resources.<br><br>The Coalition has also taken aim at the signature plan, alleging windfall will primarily benefit foreign companies and Quebec mining firms cosy with Liberals.

  • Sovereignty

    Liberals have long stood as the major federalist option in Quebec. Party is frequently accused by opponents of being subservient to Ottawa. However, it has clashed publicly with federal government over issues like long-gun registry, omnibus crime bill and changes to health transfers.<br><br>PQ is offering no timetable for third referendum on independence. Instead, party plans to pick fights with Ottawa in seeking more power over immigration, environment, agriculture and revenue collection. PQ hopes such battles will generate support for independence. Eventually, Quebecers themselves could initiate referendum, under plan to allow California-style plebiscites. People would need to collect 850,000 signatures to hold provincial vote on a given topic.<br><br>The Coalition, led by former PQ minister Francois Legault, vows to shelve any referendum on independence for 10 years to focus on building economy. But many federalists remain wary of the once-passionate sovereigntist.