06/10/2011 01:10 EDT | Updated 08/10/2011 05:12 EDT

Quebec Snap Election? Parti Quebecois Says It's Ready


THE CANADIAN PRESS - Could there be a Quebec election this fall — a year ahead of schedule? If so, the leader of the Opposition Parti Quebecois says she's ready.

Pauline Marois says her party has everything it needs to fight an election in the fall, if the premier calls one.

That snap-election scenario would have been unthinkable until a few days ago.

But several developments have fuelled speculation that Premier Jean Charest might be tempted to pull the trigger ahead of schedule and, against all expectations, seek a rare fourth mandate.

First, Charest's terrible poll numbers have evened out and his popularity gap with the opposition is closing.

Also, Marois's party has been sideswiped by internal turmoil — with four members bolting from her PQ caucus this week.

And there's another factor at play: it's looking increasingly likely that popular politician Francois Legault will start his own political party.

The ex-PQ minister's party would remain neutral on the independence cause while promising innovative, mildly right-of-centre solutions to challenges in education and health care.

Legault's opponents fear that he is raising money for what is currently a policy think-tank, and not playing by the strict fundraising rules other political parties must play under.

The Charest Liberals urged him, this week, to fight fair and start a political party immediately if he intends to run in the next election.

As for Marois' party, it appears to have stopped the bleeding for now. The PQ is still considered the favourite to win any imminent election.

Marois appeared at an end-of-session news conference Friday surrounded by her caucus.

She said that, when the election comes around, voters will look beyond her week's worth of troubles and focus on what she called three years of cronyism and incompetence of the Charest government.

"If Mr. Charest wants elections, we're ready to go," Marois told a news conference.

"Our team has everything it needs to return this fall and have an election, if necessary. We'll be ready, with our platform, to respond to people's expectations and propose projects for a future Parti Quebecois government."

All this election talk could be for naught; Charest has never said anything about calling one.