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Quebec election: Party leaders make final pitches to voters ahead of Monday's vote

As the Quebec election campaign enters its final weekend the main party leaders are fanning out across the province. From left, Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault, Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, Parti Quebecois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Quebec Solidaire Leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Quebec Conservative Leader Eric Duhaime pose on set prior to a leaders debate in Montreal on Sept. 22, 2022. Quebecers will go to the polls on October 3rd. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL — Quebec's major party leaders began making their final pitches to voters on Saturday as they attempted to convince undecided voters and get supporters out to the polls for Monday's general election.

In Chibougamau, around 500 kilometres north of Quebec City, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said he's pleased with his campaign over the past 30 days -- despite a re-election bid that has widely been seen as lacklustre. 

"The majority of Quebecers think that the Coalition avenir Québec has run the best campaign," Legault said Saturday.

While polls suggest Legault's CAQ will return to government with a stronger majority, polling over the course of the campaign has shown stagnant or slipping support for the party.

Legault told a group of business owners and elected officials that his party is addressing the concerns of Quebecers -- and not political analysts who associate "protecting our language and our values" with racism.

While addressing reporters after his speech, Legault wouldn't say which analysts he was speaking about, nor exactly what he defines as Quebec's values. 

"We are satisfied with our campaign, we think we've run our best campaign. I'm in a good mood and I'm looking forward to election night," Legault said. "I think it went well, I'm optimistic for Monday, even though I'm taking nothing for granted."

In Montreal, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade accused Legault of damaging Quebec's international reputation with comments about immigrants over the course of the campaign.

Legault made a comment linking immigration to violence and extremism, for which he later apologized. He also said last week that accepting more than 50,000 immigrants a year would be "suicidal" for Quebec. 

Anglade said those comments will make it harder for Quebec firms to recruit workers internationally.

"It is bad and somebody has to call him out on this," she said. "Suicide, violence, threat, what is this? What is this Quebec that you're trying to build? This is not where we need to go, we need to stop this narrative and be open."

Legault return to the theme of immigration on Saturday, saying he wouldn't rule out holding a referendum as part of an effort to wrest additional powers from Ottawa related to the issue.

Legault wants Quebec to have control over family reunification and temporary foreign workers. The province already selects its own economic immigrants under a deal with Ottawa.

The CAQ leader said that while he's open to the idea of a referendum, it's not part of his current plans and wouldn't happen for at least six months. 

Anglade was also scheduled to campaign in the ridings of Gaspé and Îles-de-la-Madeleine on Saturday. 

On Sunday she's scheduled to head to Kuujjuaq, the largest village in Quebec's northern Nunavik region.

The village is located in the Ungava riding, the largest in Quebec, it contains more than half the province's territory but is home to less than one per cent of the population. 

The Liberals lost all three ridings by fewer than 50 votes in 2018, but has been polling third in all three this year. 

"Getting out the vote is really critical, you saw what happened in Ontario, with 43 per cent of people deciding to go vote, we don't want to see this in Quebec," she said. 

Both Québec solidaire spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon called on their supporters to encourage others to go vote.

Nadeau-Dubois, who was scheduled to campaign on Saturday in three Montreal ridings won by the Liberals in 2018, told reporters that there are two generations that are worried about the future in Quebec: young people who are concerned about climate change and seniors worried about the conditions in long-term care homes. 

Nadeau-Dubois said he's encouraging people to speak with their families about politics and share their concerns about the future with members of other generations.

St-Pierre Plamondon, who was campaigning in the Lanaudière region north of Montreal, said he hopes people who have liked his campaign will speak to undecided voters.

Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Éric Duhaime, who spent Saturday morning knocking on doors in his riding near Quebec City, encouraged supporters to cast a ballot for his party even if they don't think the local candidate is likely to win.

Duhaime told reporters that government funding awarded to parties for every vote they receive could help the Conservatives run a stronger campaign in four years. 

"Every vote counts," he said. 

Later in the day, Duhaime held a large rally in Pointe-Claire, a majority Anglophone suburb of Montreal, where he appealed directly to English-speaking Quebecers by saying the Liberal party has taken them for granted while Legault has chosen not to speak to them. 

"You are Quebecers as much as I'm a Quebecer and as much as François Legault is a Quebecer," Duhaime said. 

Elsewhere, a large protest was held in Legault's riding of L'Assomption by people opposed to public health measures implemented at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protester Michelle Sergerie said she attended the demonstration to advocate for "liberty" and people's right to choose whether to be vaccinated.

Others said they were there to commemorate those who died alone in long-term care centres because no one was allowed to visit them. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2022.

- with files from Patrice Bergeron, Caroline Plante, Frédéric Lacroix-Couture and Pierre Saint-Arnaud.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press