Quebec government survives confidence vote

Wed Nov 24, 2010 5:20pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec's unpopular Liberal government narrowly survived a vote of confidence on Wednesday, fending off a move by separatists to force an early election in the Canadian province.

The provincial legislature voted 61-57 to defeat the motion from the separatist Parti Quebecois, which wants Premier Jean Charest to launch an official inquiry into widespread allegations of corruption in the construction industry.

Charest's Liberals, who have been in power since 2003, are increasingly unpopular. Polls show the Parti Quebecois -- which wants the largely French-speaking province of 7.5 million to separate from Canada -- would likely win a provincial election if one were held now.

Before the vote, Charest urged legislators to wait for the results of a police inquiry into the allegations. He also said the Parti Quebecois would plunge the province into a crisis by quickly pushing for another referendum on independence.

Quebec has been rocked for months by lurid media stories about the construction industry, including collusion in fixing contracts and supposed Mafia involvement.

"Launching a commission without knowing the facts, or having proof, is useless," said Charest, adding that such a probe would take years and merely produce a report.

"We'd see a string of people who -- guaranteed they would have immunity -- could say whatever they wanted ... everyone is protected at a commission of inquiry. No one is protected during a police inquiry," he thundered.

Speaking just before the vote, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois said Charest should either resign or call an immediate election.   Continued...

<p>Quebec's Premier Jean Charest speaks during the questions period at the National Assembly in Quebec City, November 16, 2010. REUTERS/Jacques Boissinot/Pool</p>