Quebec Liberals aim to avoid election over budget

Thu Feb 28, 2008 4:10pm EST
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By Robert Melnbardis

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Quebec Premier Jean Charest said on Thursday he wants opposition parties to support his government's upcoming budget, not trigger an election in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province of 7.6 million.

The Liberal minority government plans to introduce its 2008-09 budget on March 13 and needs support from either of the two main opposition parties to survive.

If the budget does not pass in the provincial legislature, Quebec's 5.6 million voters would be asked to cast ballots in a spring election just over a year after knocking the Liberals from a majority to a minority government.

That would pit the Liberals, who want Quebec to remain in Canada, against the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ), and the conservative Action democratique du Quebec (ADQ) in what could be another tight three-way race.

Recent public opinion polls show the Liberals slightly ahead of the PQ and well in front of the ADQ in popularity, but the numbers tend to swing widely.

A return to power by the PQ could trigger a third referendum on separation from Canada. Quebec voted against separation in referendums held in 1995 and 1980.

"I do not want an election," Charest told reporters after a meeting of his party caucus in Quebec City.

"I want that we can accept and respect the choice that Quebecers made a year ago to have a government of cohabitation, and work with the other parties," he added.   Continued...

<p>Quebec Premier Jean Charest leaves after speaking to journalists before the start of the Council of the Federation meeting in Ottawa January 11, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>