QUEBEC — With the Quebec election call coming this week, parties unveiled more high-profile candidates on Tuesday and finalized plans for Thursday, Day 1 of what promises to be a feisty 39-day marathon.
The Canadian Press has learned that Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard will spend the day in the Mauricie region, halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.
The ridings in the area are held by the Liberals and are being targeted by the front-running Coalition Avenir Quebec.
Sonia LeBel, a star Coalition candidate and formerly chief prosecutor at the provincial inquiry into corruption in the construction industry, is running in the riding of Champlain.
The region could produce some surprises on Oct. 1: the new electoral map has transformed five ridings into four and a popular local Liberal member, Julie Boulet, has chosen to not seek re-election.
Liberal organizers were tight-lipped about Thursday’s schedule, saying their plans were subject to change.
Couillard is expected meet with his cabinet for a brief meeting at 9 a.m. before walking to the office of Lt.-Gov. J. Michel Doyon some 30 minutes later.
Following a brief meeting, Doyon will sign two decrees formalizing the dissolution of the legislature and the start of the election campaign.
Contrary to outgoing premier Pauline Marois in 2014, Couillard will hold a news conference late Thursday morning. Marois was roundly criticized for refusing to answer journalists’ questions after launching the campaign four years ago.
The Coalition is expected to start its campaign in Quebec City before heading to Montreal.
The Parti Quebecois will kick off in the Montreal area, with a news conference and an evening rally scheduled somewhere in the suburbs.
Ahead of the election call, the parties continued to line up candidates Tuesday to carry their colours in the coming month.
The Coalition unveiled longtime Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere as its candidate in the Montreal-area riding of Vachon.
Lafreniere, a political neophyte, spent two decades working communications for the Montreal force and left his job as inspector to join Francois Legault’s team.
He lives just outside the riding, but noted he worked 25 years with the Montreal police without ever living on the island.
Legault said he’s made no promises to Lafreniere about a cabinet post should the party emerge victorious.
“I’m a good soldier, I decided to join the team and I’ll do what they ask me to do like a good soldier,” Lafreniere said.
In the western Montreal riding of Nelligan, one of the safest Liberal seats in the province, Couillard unveiled a star candidate in Monsef Derraji, who will take over from Martin Coiteux, one of the most versatile cabinet ministers in Couillard’s cabinet.
Several reports Tuesday said the Liberals have chosen Jennifer Maccarone, head of the Quebec English School Boards Association, to run in the Westmount-Saint-Louis stronghold.
She would replace Speaker Jacques Chagnon, who is retiring from politics.
— With files from Pierre Saint-Arnaud in Montreal and Vicky Fragasso-Marquis in Longueuil, Que.
Jocelyne Richer, The Canadian Press