QUEBEC CITY -- Voters deserve better than bickering between the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) and the Parti québécois (PQ), argued both the Liberal Party (PLQ) and Québec solidaire (QS) on Friday under the shadow of a tough byelection looming in Jean-Talon, in Quebec City.

They denounced the CAQ and PQ for accusing each other of lying about PQ candidate Pascal Paradis' flirtation with François Legault's party prior to the 2022 general election.

All parties, except the CAQ, presented their candidates this week for the byelection, which could be called next week.

Polls suggest a two-way battle, with the PQ slightly ahead of the CAQ, but QS's Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois is talking more of a "three-way battle," while the PLQ believes it can take back its former stronghold by bringing its supporters back into the fold.

Nadeau-Dubois, the QS co-spokesperson, lumped PQ and CAQ together.

"Our opponents are bogged down in a family squabble," he said at the QS election headquarters near Université Laval. "So many people have switched from the PQ to the CAQ in recent years that sometimes you can't tell the two parties apart."

"The people of Jean-Talon deserve better than the 'mud slinging' between the CAQ and the PQ," said QS candidate Olivier Bolduc.

The interim Liberal leader, Marc Tanguay, deplored the "propensity for bickering" that he said is part of the PQ's DNA.

"Did the PQ and CAQ have the citizens of Jean-Talon in mind in the last 24 hours? No!" he asserted during a press conference at which he introduced his candidate, Élise Avard Bernier, in this riding that was a Liberal stronghold until 2019.

"It was more like: who was going to drag the other through the mud the longest? There was no consideration for the citizens of Jean-Talon in the sad spectacle we saw."

The comments follow an accusation by the CAQ that Pascal Paradis was an opportunist who bargained for a ministerial post in exchange for running for the party in the Charlevoix-Côte-de-Beaupré riding in the 2022 election. An e-mail exchange was even revealed.

For its part, the PQ accused the CAQ of having duped Paradis. The two opposing parties accuse each other of lying.

Avard Bernier assured that she has an impeccable record and there are no text messages that could embarrass her.

"I have no skeletons in the closet, I have nothing to reproach myself for," she said at a press conference in a restaurant in the Sillery sector. She was only approached by the PLQ, she said.

The party finished fourth in the 2022 general election in the riding, once its impregnable citadel. And the slope looks steep again because the most recent Léger poll still places the PLQ fourth, but Avard Bernier is confident in winning.

"If I didn't think I could win it, I wouldn't have come," she declared.

She feels she has some advantages, even if she hasn't received the same attention as the PQ candidate in recent days. "Once [people in the riding] meet me, they'll embrace me."

Trained in public relations and communications at Université Laval, Avard Bernier is also co-founder and director of the "Vie de parents" and "Vie de grands-parents" websites.

She listed several of her accomplishments in the riding.

Jean-Talon was historically a Liberal stronghold until 2019, when the CAQ won the seat in a byelection.

The seat in Jean-Talon has been vacant since the resignation of CAQ MP Joëlle Boutin on July 31, and there are indications that the government may call the election in the next few days.

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

The leader of Climat Québec, Martine Ouellet, has announced that she will also be in the running. Éric Duhaime's Conservative Party has yet to announce its candidate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Aug. 25, 2023.