The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) knew even before the 2022 elections that it would abandon the third link motorway tunnel project between Quebec City and Lévis, even though it campaigned on this commitment.

That's what PQ candidate for the upcoming Jean-Talon byelection Pascal Paradis said when he blasted Martin Koskinen, Premier François Legault's chief of staff, at a news conference in Quebec City on Thursday morning.

The CAQ denied everything, calling Paradis a "PQ supporter."

The campaign for this byelection, which has yet to get underway, is shaping up to be fierce and hotly contested, particularly between the PQ, which is slightly ahead according to the polls, and the CAQ, which wants to keep the constituency that was left vacant at the end of July when its MNA Joëlle Boutin resigned.

According to Paradis, Koskinen dangled the prospect of a ministerial post in front of him so that he would be a CAQ candidate in the 2022 general election, while hinting that the third link would be scuttled.

Paradis said that during the talks, he stressed that he was against the third link project, and Koskinen allegedly told him: "We'll come back to this after the election."

"It was clear from our discussions that the third link would not go ahead," said Paradis.

However, the CAQ ran the entire 2022 campaign, repeating its flagship commitment to build the third link, only to announce in April that it was abandoning it.

After learning earlier this week that Paradis was running for the PQ in Jean-Talon, the CAQ then let it be known that Paradis had courted the party to be a candidate in the 2022 election and that he had even haggled over a ministerial post.

"No, I didn't shop around for a (CAQ candidacy), I wasn't shopping around. They were the ones who dangled a cabinet post in front of me," said Paradis, who co-founded Avocats sans frontières.

"I never asked the CAQ for anything. I have a life (...) of sacrifice, self-sacrifice, (...) then suddenly I would have picked up the phone to go shopping for ministries and benefits at the CAQ? No."

"The CAQ lied," thundered PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, standing next to his candidate. François Legault's party is "trying to sully the reputation of someone who is admirable."

Paradis said he was "a PQ member, an independentist, (...) not a Caquist."

Later on Thursday, Legault's office said that "the PQ and its candidate are lying through their teeth to try to win an election."

In a publication broadcast via X, formerly Twitter, the premier's press secretary said that Koskinen had never promised Paradis a ministerial post.

"It was he who asked to be minister for the Capitale nationale in order to take the plunge into politics with the CAQ," wrote Ewan Sauves. "Martin Koskinen refused to give him that assurance."

On the third link, Sauves maintains that "before the updated studies were unveiled in April, there was never any question of backing down. Martin Koskinen never mentioned such a scenario."

Sauves used the keyword "PQ supporter."

The opposition parties have long accused the CAQ of campaigning in 2022 with the promise of this flagship project, knowing full well that it would abandon it, a decision that the government announced in April.


Elise Avard Bernier, co-founder and director of the "Vie de parents" website, will be running for the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) in Jean-Talon.

There are signs that the government could call the election in the next few days.

For the first time in almost 20 years, the PQ has the wind in its sails in the capital region, according to the polls, and is banking on a victory in Jean-Talon, formerly a Liberal stronghold that it never won.

In 2019, the CAQ won the seat from the Liberals in a byelection.

The Léger poll unveiled last Friday and conducted for the PQ gave it 32 per cent of voting intentions in the riding, compared with 30 per cent for the CAQ.

The opinion poll now puts the PLQ in fourth place, at 16 per cent, behind Québec Solidaire (QS), at 17 per cent.

Trained in public relations and communications at Laval University, her candidacy is due to be officially announced on Friday.

The CAQ has reportedly nominated Marie-Anik Shoiry as its candidate.

QS party members have nominated court reporter Olivier Bolduc, even though the national executive preferred a female candidate and had recommended voting for his opponent, Christine Gilbert.

The leader of Climat Québec, Martine Ouellet, has announced that she will also be in the running. Éric Duhaime's Conservative Party has not yet announced who will carry its banner.