MONTREAL — Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard defended attacks by his troops against the rival Coalition Avenir Quebec as the province's election campaign hit the one-third mark on Tuesday.
Couillard said he wouldn't condone the harsh words of three candidates, including two outgoing senior ministers, who accused the Coalition of a lack of transparency and frequent flip-flops.
Coalition Leader Francois Legault, whose party has been steadily ahead in the polls, called out the Liberals for those frequent attacks and questioned why Couillard didn't deliver them himself.Earlier:
But Couillard dismissed his opponent's complaint Tuesday, saying that while the Liberal campaign has kept to his plan of being positive, it doesn't prevent criticism of opponents when warranted.
"It's a campaign of debates, my candidates aren't engaging in personal attacks, they are asking questions," he said in the Gaspe region, adding they are valid questions related to Coalition policies and commitments.
"This is the essence of democracy: we have debates, we have difference of opinions, so we can criticize. Have we been criticized in the recent four years? Sometimes. It is it legitimate for us to do the same? Of course it is."
Asked to evaluate his first two weeks, Couillard said he's received positive marks for the Liberal campaign thus far.
"The appraisal is that we've been doing an organized campaign, well managed, according to an established plan, day after day after day," he said.
"We are leading a campaign that's strong on our promises, and the link between those promises and the everyday lives of people and people see it."
Legault, meanwhile, said he wants to bring the focus back to ideas with his party still leading in the polls ahead of the Oct. 1 vote.
"I hope in the last two-thirds that are left, we talk more about our proposals on the economy, health and education, of our extraordinary team," the Coalition leader said.
"There have been all sorts of other subjects ... in the campaign. I hope we'll come back to the merits of the propositions in the three sectors that are most on the minds of Quebecers — that is the economy, education and health care."
Also on Day 13, a Coalition candidate was forced to resign for hiding embarrassing information from the party, while Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee came to the defence of an incumbent member of the legislature facing allegations.
The Coalition kicked out Stephane Laroche after The Canadian Press revealed he was caught several times allowing minors into the bar he owned south of Montreal.
Additionally, Quebec's workplace safety board had ruled he violated the law by paying women less than their male counterparts.
Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Lisee said he would keep a PQ candidate who, according to Radio-Canada, was arrested in July for alleged impaired driving.
Guy Leclair admitted in a statement he was arrested on July 13, but denied he refused a breathalyzer test.
Lisee said he was informed of events 10 days ago and called the accusation "serious."
But he added that Leclair is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
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The political parties headed to the province's outlying regions Tuesday, with Couillard dangling the prospect of decentralizing the decision-making teams in certain provincial departments and relocating them to those areas where it makes geographical sense.
For example, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean would see the province's Forestry Department move to its region or employees specializing in mining would see their resources moved to Abitibi-Temiscamingue, he said.
In Thetford Mines, 250 kilometres east of Montreal, Legault made several promises to better support Quebecers who take care of a sick or elderly family member.
One of them was a pledge to create 20 temporary care homes and hike a caregiver tax credit to $2,500 from $1,176.
Back in the Gaspe, Lisee promised to reduce the cost of hunting and fishing licences and encourage the practice, particularly among youth.
The PQ says the measures would be welcome among the roughly one million Quebecers who hunt and fish.
Lisee was joined by candidate Sylvain Roy, who has represented the eastern Quebec riding of Bonaventure for the party since 2012 and is in another fight of his own: he is beginning throat cancer treatments as of Wednesday while seeking re-election.
With files from Patrice Bergeron in Matane, Que., and Stephanie Marin in Carleton-sur-Mer, Que.