Quebec Liberals focusing on economy to boost popularity ahead of election

To turn the tide and win the next election, the Liberals say they will once again bet on what’s been their strength in the past: economic stability.

Protectionist threats from the United States could well fuel Philippe Couillard’s Liberals, who are already claiming that Quebec’s economic stability will be better preserved by keeping the same government in power.

It’s an argument used by former Premier Jean Charest in 2008, when he was at the helm of a minority government in the midst of a global financial crisis. By demanding both hands on the wheel to better manage the situation, Charest won his bet and went on to form a majority government in December 2008.

On Saturday, during a Liberal press scrum outside the PLQ offices, campaign president Alexandre Taillefer also took up the metaphor, saying that it’s necessary to have “hands on the wheel” to keep the economy strong.

It’s not time to change strategy while it’s still being executed, Taillefer added.

Polling results in the last month have put the Coalition Avenir Quebec far ahead of the Liberals in terms of voting intentions.

Just four months before Quebecers go to the polls, the nervousness is palpable among Liberal party members, as they search for the platform that will thrust them ahead of the competition.

The international economic scene is becoming “more and more complex,” according to Finance Minister Carlos Leitao – referring to the rise in tariffs on Canadian exports of steel and aluminum, announced this week by the U.S. government.

“The future remains uncertain,” Leitao said, while also asserting that he will continue to manage public finances “very cautiously.”

Leitao, however, was reassuring about the prospect of an economic slowdown – saying that Quebec has bargaining power and can maneuver financially.

A cautious attitude will be the hallmark of Liberal commitments as their electoral platform is unveiled, Leitao said, as they predict lower economic growth in coming years than in 2017.

The chairman of the Conseil du Tresor, Pierre Arcand, argued that the Liberals will present voters with the most relevant and best offer among the parties.

In its proposal, the Liberals will seek a balance between social justice and financial responsibility, Arcand said.

The Liberal’s General Council, held Saturday in Montreal, is the party’s last rally before the fall election.

Hundreds of activists will gather to take stock of the party’s programming and plan the election campaign.

Premier Philippe Couillard is expected to speak in the afternoon and try to raise the enthusiasm of party followers, despite the Liberals’ decline in popularity.