QUEBEC - A Quebec election campaign is expected to begin today.
Premier Jean Charest appears poised to call a vote for September 4 — the day after Labour Day.
Should Charest win, he would tie a provincial record with four consecutive victories.
But his Liberals are involved a tough three-way race and, if the polls are to be believed, would enter the campaign as underdog against the Parti Quebecois.
The campaign's dark horse is the Coalition for Quebec's Future; the new party has attracted much attention with its promise to bring together separatists and federalists by improving the economy.
A cabinet meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in Quebec City. After that, the premier will cross the street to visit the province's lieutenant-governor to dissolve the national assembly and set the vote date.
The premier is expected to campaign on a theme of stability. He will argue that his Liberals stand for economic order while his PQ opponents encourage disorderly street protests and chaos in the markets with their pursuit of Quebec independence.
The PQ will reply that Charest doesn't deserve another term, given all the ethics scandals in the province including several that have swirled around his own government.
The Pequistes will also charge that the province should set higher royalty rates for mining companies that operate in the North.
They have also proposed a series of democratic reforms.
The most controversial one would allow citizens to initiate their own referendums, on independence or other topics, if they gather enough signatures on a petition. The measure is inspired by pratices in other countries, including the United States.
The PQ would also allow 16-year-olds to vote and would reduce the limit on political donations to $100.