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Elections 2015: Quebec expected to be battleground, leaders already campaigning

SEPT-ILES AND QUEBEC CITY — Yet another visit in a bucolic setting.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Sept-Iles Tuesday morning to announce plans for Quebec’s St. Lawrence oil resources.

READ MORE: Harper announces plans for Quebec’s St. Lawrence oil resources

The Prime Minister had a similar visit with residents and workers of Roberval just last June.

After Sept-Iles, Harper travelled to the Valcartier military base, while 30 kilometres away, his rival, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau mingled with Quebec’s business and political classes.

“The challenges Canada faces cannot be solved from Ottawa alone,” Trudeau told the Quebec crowd.

“They require a true partnership. As prime minister, I will convene yearly first ministers’ conferences.”

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Trudeau is reaching out to Quebecers with talk of respect, open dialogue and heightened democracy. He said he was inspired by Quebec’s Dying with Dignity debate, but refused to say whether he would launch one at the federal level.

“We’re looking for guidance from the Supreme Court,” he said.

Supporters said Trudeau’s ideas, including his proposal to reform the electoral system, are relevant.

“Justin represents a renewal,” said Mariette Grant. “He represents something fresh, he represents hope, not only for Quebec but for the country.”

But political analyst Gilbert Lavoie told Global News he’s heard it all before.

“It brings back a lot of memories. His father’s speech you know, ‘We need Quebecers, Quebecers need to be part of changes we’re proposing in Canada.'”

Lavoie said he believed Quebecers aren’t ready to give Trudeau a blank cheque. They’ll watch for blunders in the year to come.

“It’s easy to make a speech like we’ve heard today,” Lavoie said,

“It will be another story to debate that with people like Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair during the election campaign.”

For now, the Liberals are confident they’ll boost their numbers.

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The Liberals have eight Quebec MPs, the Conservatives have five — and the NDP have fifty-five.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has yet to launch his campaign in Quebec, but for Hugo Mathieu, another Liberal supporter, the battle in Quebec will be between the Liberals and the Tories.

“We know what we’re doing and the Conservatives are playing catch-up,” he said.

Canadians are expected to go to the polls on October 19, 2015.