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Quebec Conservatives stake out election ground, opposing Bill 96 and welcoming anti-vaxxers


Quebec's Conservative Party is laying out its plan of attack for the fall election, and Montreal and its English-speakers play a big part -- as does Bill 96, which the party is opposing.

"We want to make sure in the metropolis we're very strong," said Eric Duhaime at a campaign kickoff event at a pub on Crescent St. on Monday night.

"We saw in the latest polls we're actually stronger among anglophones than francophones, which is kind of a surprise for us."

The party announced its eight candidates for Montreal ridings, a list that includes lawyers, business people and newcomers to politics.

In Montreal North, engineer Carmel-Antoine Bessard will run.

"We need people to stand up for us," said Bessard. "For too long, they've taken us for granted, and now it's about time for change."

The Conservatives, who barely have any representation right now in the National Assembly -- a single seat -- are gaining traction in the polls, and they're trying to stake out an unusual middle ground.

The party is trying to differentiate itself from the ruling CAQ, but it's also on the attack against the Liberals, many Montrealers' normal political go-to in provincial elections.

In Jacques-Cartier, the candidate will be Louis-Charles Fortier, who took aim at the Liberals in his speech Monday.

"A lot of the people in our riding are angry at them, and they're looking for [change]," he said. "This is the only valid option for the West Island."

Marie-France Lemay, the candidate for Rosemont, said "We have to be united -- francophone, anglophone, everybody."

Overall, the party is trying to position itself as the main threat to Premier François Legault, whose CAQ party just held its own convention over the weekend, outlining a campaign based on immigration reform and preserving French with the controversial Bill 96.

Duhaime opposes Bill 96, calling it divisive and discriminatory.

"For us, it's unacceptable -- they're aren't two kinds of Quebecers," he said Monday.

"The division is enough. Mr. Legault wanted to debate and talk and convince the English-speaking community -- today he doesn't even want to talk. It's like a slap in the face."

But his argument against the Liberals also involves Bill 96, saying English-speakers are angry at the party for not standing up for them enough and that they need another option.

The Liberals first suggested stiffening the language rules for English CEGEP students, though they quickly backtracked on that decision after hearing the bad feedback.

But Duhaime's campaign strategy draws in many more issues, with the party hoping to draw in many other types of voters.

Duhaime said he wanted to restore "personal freedoms," including those who oppose abortion and vaccination.

"I can run, have them on my team, as long as they follow the party line," he said.

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His main concern, he says, is one of the broadest issues around: the cost of living, and helping the economy recover from the pandemic.

Making the election about language is a distraction, at least on the part of the CAQ, he said.

The full slate of Conservative candidates is below:

Christos Karteris : Bourget

Aleksa Drakul : Marguerite-Bourgeoys

Carmel-Antoine Bessard : Bourassa-Sauvé

Chakib Saad : Jeanne-Mance-Viger

Geneviève Deneault : Anjou-Louis-Riel

Louis-Charles Fortier : Jacques-Cartier

Marie-France Lemay : Rosemont

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