March 24, 2014 12:20 pm

Parti Quebecois backtracks on talk of stolen election

MONTREAL – The Parti Quebecois is backtracking on allegations that people from outside the province are trying to steal the Quebec election.

Yet PQ Leader Pauline Marois is defending the party’s decision to raise questions about alleged irregularities in voter registration that surfaced in the media.

The province’s chief electoral officer said Sunday that reports of an abnormal influx of students trying to register to vote are false.

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READ MORENo irregular activity or vote stealing says Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer

Marois said Monday the PQ was duty bound to raise the issue with Elections Quebec once the allegations were made.

She said she is satisfied the situation is under control.

Outgoing cabinet minister Bertrand St-Arnaud told a news conference on Sunday he didn’t want the election to be “stolen by people from Ontario and the rest of Canada.”

Those strong statements were toned down on Monday, but St-Arnaud justified the PQ response given the integrity of the voting process was being questioned in certain media.

Outgoing cabinet minister Bertrand St-Arnaud spoke on the weekend of people from Ontario and the rest of Canada trying to “steal” the April 7 election.

READ MOREPQ vow not to let Ontario students decide election outcome

On Monday, the Liberals accused the PQ of trying to intimidate the chief electoral officer in another desperate attempt to move the focus away from referendum talk.

Leader Philippe Couillard said the attack was “grotesque” and said Marois should have called St-Arnaud and other candidates who participated in Sunday’s news conference to order.

“It’s literally an attempt to intimidate an independent institution, the chief electoral officer,” Couillard said in Sherbrooke.

A spokesman for Elections Quebec, Denis Dion, said the institution was surprised by St-Arnaud’s decision to call them out during a news conference, calling the tactic a bit “particular.”

“The idea of telling us in a press conference how to do our job is not the way it works usually between the DGE (Elections Quebec) and the political parties,” said Dion.

Dion said he doesn’t believe the PQ move was an attempt to use Elections Quebec for partisan attacks.

Last week, the province’s corruption inquiry called on all parties to keep them out of such attacks after chair France Charbonneau appeared in a PQ ad targeting the Liberals.

READ MORECharbonneau inquiry does not want to be used for ‘partisan purposes’

“I won’t go as far as that,” Dion said.

Marois said Monday she doesn’t believe her party’s response was exaggerated. She noted that Elections Quebec sent out extra material to clarify the issues being raised.

She said her party will remain vigilant.

“That is our responsibility, it is important for us to respect the process of voting in Quebec,” Marois said.

“That is the rule of our democracy.”

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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