With just days left in the Quebec election campaign and her Parti Quebecois apparently struggling in opinion polls, Pauline Marois came out with a surprising promise on Thursday: future income-tax cuts.
The goodies would kick in only after the province balances its budget, which the PQ has said will occur in 2015-16.
In an exchange with Michel Leblanc, head of the Montreal Board of Trade, Marois said a re-elected PQ government would cut business taxes.
She then told reporters later the promise would also extend to individual taxpayers.
Asked why she waited until Day 30 of the campaign to mention the commitment, Marois replied: ``Not a lot of people asked me (about tax cuts).''
"The board of trade asked me the question.''
Marois was short on details about the cuts, which she surely hopes will help the PQ regain some momentum before Monday's vote.
"The middle class is heavily taxed,'' she said. ``We know that, and we want to alleviate some of that burden.''
In a campaign dominated by talk of corruption, integrity and the secular charter, there had been no inkling of any tax-relief announcements since the election being called March 5.
The surprise announcement was brushed off by both of her main rivals. Coalition Leader Francois Legault called it improvisation and a desperate move. Perceived front-runner, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, dismissed her pledge as a political play.
"The last time I heard Madame Marois talk about taxes was when she scared everyone with retroactive tax hikes after they formed a government,'' Couillard told a gathering in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, south of Montreal.
"Is there anyone here who believes her?,'' the Liberal leader asked.
The response from the partisan crowd was a collective:``No.''
"Come on!'' Couillard added in a further jab at Marois's announcement.
While the PQ has promised a balanced budget in 2015-2016, Quebec's interim auditor general said recently the government was being very optimistic if it thought it could achieve it within a few years.
The PQ campaigned in 2012 on a promise to balance the budget in 2013-2014, the fiscal year which ended just a few days ago, on March 31.
It eventually put off the objective after saying government revenues were way lower than anticipated.
Marois said one-half of any future budget surpluses could be used for tax cuts and one-half for improvements in services.