Newspaper article The Canadian Press

How Tough Is Charest's Re-Election Fight? Just Ask the Guy Who Now Lives in His Childhood Home

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

How Tough Is Charest's Re-Election Fight? Just Ask the Guy Who Now Lives in His Childhood Home

Article excerpt

Charest's uphill battle begins at home, literally

--

SHERBROOKE, Que. - How tough is the fight ahead for Jean Charest's Liberals? The polls hint at the party's defeat and point to the premier losing his own seat.

Even the guy who lives in Charest's childhood home might not vote for him.

He actually voted against the premier in the last election, and is weighing his options this time. Philippe Duvivier, who bought the modest, red-brick house in Sherbrooke, Que., from the Charest family about four years ago, said the feeling in town toward the Liberal leader is just as uncertain.

"It's divided," Duvivier said on the front stoop of the two-storey home that housed the Charests for half a century. The house is set back from bustling Portland Boulevard, partially hidden in the shade of the property's lush trees.

"There are people for him and people against him."

Charest has clung to the Sherbrooke seat in eight federal or provincial elections since he entered politics in 1984. He even survived the devastation of the Progressive Conservative defeat in 1993 that reduced the party to two seats across Canada.

There have been some close calls on his home turf -- and this campaign could be his toughest yet.

New polls Friday suggested the Parti Quebecois had a solid lead among francophone voters, teetering between minority and majority government territory.

A separate survey taken in Charest's Sherbrooke riding suggested a 15-point advantage for his PQ opponent, a former Bloc Quebecois federal MP for the area.

PQ supporters had difficulty containing themselves Friday in the downtown campaign headquarters for Serge Cardin.

One grinning young man inside the office rubbed his hands together as he approached a reporter: "This is going to be an historic election."

Cardin could succeed Charest for the second time in a political office. When Charest left federal politics, it was Cardin who won his vacant seat. Now he's hoping to force the premier out at the provincial level.

Cardin, 62, said locals remember what he was able to accomplish during his years as a Bloc MP and they're fed up with the premier and the "odour of corruption" around his Liberal party.

"It creates a pretty imposing divide," Cardin said Friday after visiting workers at a factory in the city, about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.

He also charged that Charest had neglected the local economy: "Right now I have the confidence of the population," he said.

Still, Cardin remains cautious when reading the polls. He has fresh memories of losing his federal seat last year in the sudden Quebec surge by the New Democrats. In the 2011 election campaign, he watched his early lead in the polls evaporate.

He fears it could happen again if his supporters sense an easy win and stay home on election day.

"We're not taking anything for granted," said the former Sherbrooke city councillor. …

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