07/16/2012 03:54 EDT | Updated 09/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Michelle Courchesne, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay Leaving Quebec Cabinet

QUEBEC - Two more ministers from Quebec Premier Jean Charest's cabinet say they won't run again — fuelling speculation the province is headed for a mid-summer election call.

Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, a trusted minister whom Charest tapped to manage the turbulent student crisis, announced Monday she won't seek re-election.

The Canadian Press has also learned that International Relations Minister Monique Gagnon-Tremblay will make her own departure official in the coming days.

The governing Liberals have chosen candidates for each of the province's 125 ridings and the party's MNAs have reportedly begun to have their campaign photos taken. Replacements have even been found for the departing ministers.

The premier is thought to be leaning toward an Aug. 1 election call and a vote on Sept. 4.

Charest deflected criticism Monday from any plan to kickstart an election campaign while many Quebecers are still enjoying their summer vacations.

"I was elected on a Sept. 4," he told reporters in his hometown of Sherbrooke, referring to the first time he won a seat for the federal Progressive Conservatives in 1984.

As for his departing colleagues, Charest described Courchesne as one of his best ministers since his Liberals first took power in 2003.

Courchesne, 59, who served as education minister from 2007 to 2010, was reappointed to the position last spring after Line Beauchamp's abrupt resignation amid the student crisis.

But Courchesne has also found herself in the middle of controversy in recent months.

She came under fire following the release of two auditor general reports that criticized her for arbitrary management of public funds and a lack of rigour in applying the rules.

Charest called Gagnon-Tremblay a close personal friend who will leave behind enduring policies that will have a major impact on the status of women, immigration and the treasury board.

The departures by Courchesne and Gagnon-Tremblay follow two other recent retirement announcements by two other cabinet ministers: Norman MacMillan and Yvon Vallieres.

MacMillan, a longtime Liberal, acknowledged the party asked him to move up the timing of his exit because an election was on the horizon.

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