QUEBEC - The chances of a 2013 Quebec election declined somewhat as the Parti Quebecois government moved Wednesday to downplay expectations of a snap vote.
The premier and at least three ministers shrugged off the need for an election amid rampant speculation their minority government was considering one.
The Parti Quebecois cabinet is set to meet for a two-day retreat where it's expected to map out its political strategy after weeks in which the party has faced at least one major dilemma: Table the controversial values charter as a bill in the legislature this fall, or campaign on it instead?
At the legislature Wednesday, Premier Pauline Marois and several ministers sounded less than desperate to hit that campaign trail.
Marois said she doesn't want an election.
"Maybe the leader of the second opposition wants an election. That's not true in our case," Marois said in response to a question from Coalition Leader Francois Legault.
"There are a lot of challenges to overcome in Quebec and that's what we've been working on for a while.
Agriculture Minister Francois Gendron said the public doesn't want an election. Labour Minister Agnes Maltais said she's not in an electoral frame of mind. And International Relations Minister Jean-Francois Lisee said the PQ's not in a hurry to hit the hustings.
The PQ was elected just over a year ago with a minority but has recently been coy about whether it might follow the example of Stephen Harper, who ended his own minority government in 2008 in the hope of being elected with a majority.
Marois' former speech-writer, who recently left her office and now blogs about politics, recently said he would be encouraging her to pull the trigger.
"With opponents on the ropes, the economic program solid, the charter project still very popular, the ministerial team battle-tested, and a premier who has found her bearings, yes, I'd advise her to go," Stephane Gobeil wrote on the blog of L'Actualite magazine.
"(But) even when I was an advisor, they didn't always listen to me."
With observers speculating about a possible call for Dec. 9, the PQ's opponents accuse it of preparing to use identity politics to distract from a lacklustre economy.
Polls suggest the PQ's controversial values charter is relatively popular and, although the party trails the Liberals and has a high dissatisfaction rating, it also holds a sizeable lead among the crucial francophone electorate.
Those polls suggest a potential tossup where the PQ could win a majority, remain a minority, or lose power altogether.
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