MONTREAL – Transport rolled onto the scene of the Quebec election campaign on Saturday as two of the main party leaders promised to help travellers get around if elected.
Speaking at a small airport in Baie-Comeau, Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee took aim at Air Canada, promising to end the carrier’s “quasi-monopoly” in order to bring down the price of airline tickets in the region.
He explained he’d create a consumer protection bureau and set “reference prices” for airline tickets that would penalize big carriers from temporarily dropping prices to stifle new competition.
Often, Air Canada lowers its prices when a new competitor comes on the market, only to raise them once the threat is gone, Lisee said.
While regulating the aerospace industry falls under federal jurisdiction, Lisee said he believed his proposed action would fall under consumer protection, which is within the province’s power.
He also denounced Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, who in February announced the creation of a new program to encourage companies to enter the regional Quebec market.
Couillard’s plan, which included a promise to simplify a program that reduces air fees for residents in certain Quebec regions, is nothing more than “a subsidy to Air Canada,” Lisee said.
His packed Saturday agenda included several stops in small towns north of the St. Lawrence river, and began with a private meeting with Essipit Innu chief Martin Dufour.
Meanwhile, Couillard repeated a promise to move forward on a long-discussed third route across the St. Lawrence river to connect Quebec City and Levis.
He told reporters in the provincial capital that he’d also work to strengthen and extend the public transport network around the region.
Couillard also commented on ongoing NAFTA negotiations, saying U.S. President Donald Trump is not a friend of Canada.
“The United States are a great friend and ally of Canada, but clearly Mr. Trump is not,” he said while campaigning in Quebec City.
“He is certainly not an ally and is not acting like an ally, and not just with Canada.”
Quebec solidaire chose instead to focus on education, promising to eliminate public subsidies for private schools in a first mandate, if elected.
Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault took the day off.
– With files from Stephanie Marin in Baie-Comeau and Patrice Bergeron in Quebec CityNews from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016