FERMONT, Que. - Jean Charest's expected election call is still two weeks away, but that didn't stop the Quebec premier from announcing up to $200 million on Tuesday for infrastructure development in northern communities.
Some northern towns, such as Fermont, had complained that Charest's ambitious northern development plan was creating a mining boom that would strain existing services.
The money announced by the premier on Tuesday would address this by helping towns to establish or modernize roads and facilities such as water purification plants.
"The Plan Nord is one of the largest projects in the history of Quebec, as it will significantly increase our economic potential by highlighting our natural resources," Charest said.
The northern plan, which includes resource and tourism development in the area, is considered to be a key part of the legacy Charest is hoping to solidify as he heads into a election that is expected to be held in early September.
As tight-lipped as Charest has been, hints about the impending campaign have been dropping like confetti in a parade.
The party has nominated its 125 candidates, while announcements for projects and funding have been rolled out in recent weeks.
A number of political stalwarts have also announced they are quitting politics as the decks are cleared for the campaign.
International Relations Minister Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, a longtime Charest loyalist, confirmed Tuesday she will sit out the next election.
Gagnon-Tremblay has served in the legislature since 1985, representing a riding that sits alongside Charest's in the Eastern Townships.
Her announcement comes a day after Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, who is also Charest's deputy premier, announced she will not run again.
Gagnon-Tremblay, 72, said she decided to step down because she's had a long political career.
"If I was 10 years younger, I would do this election campaign with Jean Charest," she said.
"But after considering my age, and after giving 27 years of my life to politics, and after much reflection, I think it is normal for me to turn the page."
Gagnon-Tremblay, who was the first woman to hold the title of leader of the Official Opposition in the legislature, said she hoped she had helped open doors for women in politics.
(By Nelson Wyatt in Montreal, with files from Lia Levesque)
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