By SHAWN McCARTHY
Globe and Mail Update
Quebec City Liberal Leader Jean Chrétien brought his campaign to this nationalist stronghold Saturday and told voters that the Bloc Québécois is offering nothing but another "trip to the dentist chair."
He also accused the Canadian Alliance of practicing a "policy of exclusion," and criticized an Alliance candidate who described an openly gay Conservative rival as a "statistical deviant."
Mr. Chretien faced a fresh barrage of polls today that suggested that, outside of Quebec, the Canadian Alliance has gained some momentum in the first week of the election, and that the Liberals still fare poorly among francophone voters in his home province. He noted, however, that the polls also have the Liberals maintaining support of about 45 per cent of voters and that, at that level, they would win a third majority government.
"We're doing quite well everywhere," he told reporters. "We had a very, very good week."
Polls show the Liberals either slightly ahead of or neck-and-neck with the Bloc in Quebec, though the opposition party has a substantial lead among francophone voters. Mr. Chrétien is personally unpopular with many francophones because he has rejected the nationalist vision that is shared not only among sovereigntists but also among many federalists.
But the Liberal leader insisted that all Quebeckers are responding to his positive campaign stressing a balanced approach of tax cuts and new spending on health, research and education. He noted Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe remains focused on creating the winning conditions for a future referendum on separation, rather than on the bread-and-butter issues which Quebeckers care most about.
"You just have to remember that they want to take us back to the dentist chair and that's enough," he said.
Mr. Chrétien was also asked why one of his candidates, Helene Scherrer, of the Quebec City-area riding of Louis Hebert, features Finance Minister Paul Martin in all her campaign literature but not him. In his French-language television ads, Mr. Chrétien is shown taking an autumn walk with Mr. Martin, with whom he fought an open leadership battle just last spring. And unlike elsewhere in the country, the Liberal campaign poster does not feature a picture of Mr. Chretien; instead, it features an adult and child holding hands and the slogan, in French: A better future for all.
Mr. Chrétien said the Liberal Party is a "big family" and the campaign is highlighting the entire Liberal team.