UPDATE 2-Quebec heading for provincial election, separatists lead

Thu Feb 20, 2014 7:22pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA Feb 20 (Reuters) - Quebec's two main opposition parties said on Thursday they would oppose the separatist Parti Quebecois government's budget, assuring a spring election, and raising the possibility of an eventual third referendum on independence from Canada.

The Parti Quebecois currently heads a minority government, and has a comfortable lead in the polls. It has signaled it might well call an election on its own in the next two weeks, before it is brought down by a vote on its budget. In either case, an election by mid-April is likely.

If Premier Pauline Marois decided not to call an election on her own, her Parti Quebecois would need the support of either the Quebec Liberals or the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), but both have said they oppose the budget.

"It will be impossible for us to support the budget," Quebec media quoted Liberal leader Philippe Couillard as saying.

CAQ spokesman Jean-Francois Del Torchio said: "We'll be voting against if there is a vote."

However, he added that Marois had pledged not to be defeated in the legislature, suggesting she might call an election.

The Parti Quebecois, which would like to take the mainly French-speaking province out of Canada, won a minority of seats in the 2012 election with just under 32 percent of the vote.   Continued...