Jean Charest, Liberals
Who: Former federal Progressive Conservative wunderkind lured to Quebec in 1998 to beat back the separatist threat; lost the last election to the Parti Québecois's Lucien Bouchard. Trying again against the more clay-footed Bernard Landry.
Platform: Health care is No. 1 priority. Liberals would hire more nurses and train more doctors. Party also promises to invest heavily in education and retool after-school programs to give kids a hand with homework. Promising $5-billion in tax cuts over five years to relieve the burden on the highest-taxed people in North America.
Support: As the campaign began, it appeared problematic among francophones, who decide election outcomes in Quebec; they were still wary of Mr. Charest's federalist past and uninspired by his vision of the future. Mr. Charest had spent four years crisscrossing the province courting francophones in the regions, but his support remained heavily concentrated among anglophone and ethnic voters around Montreal. However, polls as election day neared showed his support surging, even among crucial francophone voters.
Mario Dumont, Action Démocratique du Québec
Who: A clean-cut 32-year-old with a degree in economics, he has been a professional politician for a decade. A former provincial Liberal youth-wing president, he left over constitutional issues and started the more nationalist Action democratique du Quebec, which he has led since 1994.
Platfrom: Critics call him a younger Mike Harris. Promises to give Quebeckers a break from referendum-related feuding. Offers a combination of tax cuts, debt reduction and tighter public spending. Backtracked on flat tax and school-vouchers system policies and watered down his proposals for private healthcare because of restrictions under the Canada Health Act.
Support: After years as a one-seat party, the ADQ won four by-elections last summer as it leapt to the top of the polls. Since then, closer scrutiny and attacks from his rivals have pushed Mr. Dumont's party back to third place. After cresting at 40 per cent, the ADQ's support has sunk and the party trails far behind the two front-runners.
Bernard Landry, Parti Québécois
Who: The 66-year-old Premier is into his 10th campaign, but his first as party leader. He was acclaimed PQ Leader in March, 2001, after Lucien Bouchard stepped down, arguing Quebeckers were not ready for sovereignty.
Platform: Has attempted to rebuild his public image tainted by off-the-cuff remarks and musings about the poor and women's groups before the campaign began. He tried to project himself as a more caring and credible senior statesman. Offers more "good government" and "responsible" management of the economy with innovative and modestly progressive policies without abandoning his obsession for state intervention in the economy. The four-day workweek, universal $5-dollar-a-day daycare, the zero deficit, low unemployment and major investment projects constitute the backbone of his campaign. The promotion of sovereignty is all but absent.
Support: Mr. Landry has been a strong supporter of free trade and has established an impressive network of ties with business leaders who helped him realize his personal ambition to become Quebec Premier but who also pursuaded him to place sovereignty on the backburner. Mr. Landry hopes to win a third consecutive mandate for the PQ by promoting the government's record. Last fall, the party trailed both the ADQ and Liberals. But going into the campaign it was leading in the polls.