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Negative campaign backfiring on Marois, Quebec Liberal leader says


SHERBROOKE, QUE.—The harsh attacks employed by Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois are dragging down her campaign in the final days of the election race, says the Liberal party leader.

Philippe Couillard said Thursday that Marois' attempt to tie him to alleged fraudster Dr. Arthur Porter after he endorsed the Liberal chief in an interview from a Panamanian prison were “frankly uncalled for.”

“If some nights Madame Marois finds that she's having difficulty with her campaign, that's one of the reasons,” he said in a news conference.

Porter, who is facing allegations he accepted kickbacks for the awarding of a Montreal hospital construction project, gave his dubious backing to Couillard in an interview transcript published on a website run by his biographer, Jeff Todd. He said he continues to consider the Liberal leader a friend and said he is best suited to be the next “first minister” of Quebec.

Marois said it was proof that “birds of a feather flock together.”

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Porter and Couillard served together on the Canadian intelligence agency's oversight body, an appointment made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and also registered a health care consulting firm together, though the company never got off the ground. The Liberal leader has been dogged by the relationship since he won the party post one year ago.

But he refused to be drawn into the debate once again.

“I have run this campaign with respect and I'm going to continue like that,” he said.

With four days to go until the April 7 vote, Couillard said he is now setting out to “blitz” the regions where his party is trying to win seats or retain ridings. He started the day in eastern Quebec and will finish the day at the province's western borders.

“There will be — I feel it — a Liberal majority government,” Couillard said, adding that his job now is to “rally Quebecers” to his party's side.

“That's why sometimes I'm caught in between this mud (negative attacks) by not responding to every insult with another insult. I keep telling myself that the day after we're going to have to rally all Quebecers, including those who didn't vote for the Liberal party.”

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