Quebec's PM calls election, separatists vulnerable

Wed Nov 5, 2008 2:08pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Liberal premier of Quebec on Wednesday called an election for December 8, which looks set to deal a fresh blow to separatists seeking independence for the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province.

Jean Charest, whose party only controls a fragile minority of seats in the provincial parliament, says he needs a strong hand to deal with the financial slowdown that is hurting the province of 7.5 million.

Charest won a majority in the 2003 election but barely hung on to power in the next election in March 2007.

Polls show the Liberals are likely to make major gains at the expense of the right-leaning Action democratique du Quebec and will also take seats from the separatist Parti Quebecois.

Charest said neither opposition party was interested in working with the Liberals.

"Quebecers know very well that a minority government is an unstable government. Quebecers also know that you can't have three pairs of hands on the rudder during a storm," he told a televised news conference.

"I am firmly convinced that you need political stability to have economic prosperity. While this cohabitation (with the other parties) can work during a period of growth, it is an foolish risk during a period of uncertainty," he said.

The Quebec government said on Tuesday it would maintain balanced budgets in 2008-09 and 2009-10 and promised the province would avoid a recession.   Continued...

<p>Quebec's Premier Jean Charest gestures as he speaks during question period at the National Assembly in Quebec City, November 4, 2008. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>