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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec's separatists have jumped into a substantial lead in a public support survey released on Thursday as dissatisfaction mounts over Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest's handling of the economic crisis.
The provincial Parti Quebecois, which advocates independence for the French-speaking province, has vaulted to 40 percent, compared to 33 percent for Charest's provincial Liberals. The once-competitive Action democratique du Quebec, on the right, now is only at 10 percent.
It was a reversal from the December election, when the Quebec Liberals had taken 42 percent of the vote, the Parti Quebecois 35 percent and the ADQ 16 percent.
The poll was taken by CROP for La Presse newspaper.
Charest was just re-elected in December with a majority of seats and does not have to call an election until 2013.
The Parti Quebecois criticized Charest's recent budget for not doing enough and said it should do more for education and to help firms avoid having to lay off workers, despite its introducing a sizable budget deficit.
Charest also has endured criticism of large losses suffered by the province's Caisse pension fund, which the Caisse blamed on the crisis.
Federally, the separatist Bloc Quebecois retains a substantial lead in the province if elections for the Canadian Parliament were held now.
It would take 35 percent of the vote, against 30 percent for the federal Liberal Party and 18 percent for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Harper was re-elected in October with another minority government and has stronger support in most of the rest of Canada.
The poll surveyed 1,001 people from March 12-23 and carries a margin of error of 3 points 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Bill Trott