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CAQ says new plan will help reboot Quebec's economy

03/23/2013 02:14 EDT | Updated 05/23/2013 05:12 EDT
Members of the Coalition Avenir Québec are taking a look at the province's economy and resources during a general party meeting in Boucherville, on Montreal's south shore.

Party leader François Legault said the future engine of Quebec's economy is research and innovation. He has outlined a plan called "Projet Saint-Laurent," and said he sees the Saint-Lawrence Valley becoming a region similar to Silicon Valley in Northern California.

In a speech delivered to about 400 CAQ party members, Legault said he hopes universities and businesses on either side of the Saint-Lawrence River will take part in his plan.

"It will be a starting point for a new conquest," said Legault. "My dream is to turn the Saint-Lawrence Valley into a valley of innovation, a place where imagination and creativity will become the engine of our economic recovery."

Legault suggested his party would eliminate half of the province's tax credits to free up $2 billion a year. This money, he said, could be used to help sustain technological advancements.

He said government aid programs and current tax credits "fail to show good results."

During a press conference following his announcement, Legault denied wanting to abandon the province's rural regions by focusing on developing the Saint-Lawrence Valley..

"We have to focus our efforts and this is why we're saying 'Lets start from the Saint-Lawrence Valley and then there could be [other areas] in the Abitibi, the Outaouais and the Saguenay,'" he said.

By focusing on innovation, the government could bridge the economic gap between the province and the Canadian average, according to Legault.

Education at the heart of Projet Saint-Laurent

The CAQ leader said education will have to be the government's top priority if it wants to succeed in creating Projet Saint-Laurent.

"That's why the cuts made by the Marois government to universities and in research funds are deplorable," he said. "It's short-sighted politics without a vision for the future and forces leveling from the bottom."

The CAQ will continue to outline its plans for the Saint-Lawrence Valley on Sunday.

Legault said his own plan is better than the Liberal Party's highly criticized Plan Nord.

"To me, the Plan Nord isn't a visionary project. It touches on natural resources and it was presented during a mining boom. To be honest, the price of most metals, except for gold, has dropped and Plan Nord is far less lucrative than it was," he said.

Legault said his party will present itself as the "economic party" in a bid to displace the current Liberal opposition. He said the CAQ is not excluding the possibility of another provincial election in the coming months.

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