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PQ deputy premier says election call before budget is a possibility

SHAWINIGAN, Que. - The Parti Quebecois government is not ruling out the possibility of calling a spring election before it tables a budget.

Deputy premier Francois Gendron indicated Wednesday the timing may be more favourable now than it was last fall.

He said a minority government such as the PQ must always be ready to go to the polls.

"A minority government always has to be ready for this reality because we don't know at what moment the other political parties will come before us with a non-confidence motion," said Gendron.

He also said the government can call an election before tabling a budget as long as it has told voters the true state of the province's finances.

"Is there a way to speak the truth to the electorate without a budget?" Gendron said. "I think so."

Gendron made the comments on the first day of a two-day PQ caucus meeting in Shawinigan.

There is speculation Premier Pauline Marois may call an election in March, with Quebecers going to the polls in mid-April.

Other PQ cabinet ministers were more cautious in speculating on any potential election.

"I don't know when the election will be, I have no control over the electoral calendar," said Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville.

"My job is move the (secularism) charter forward and get it passed. This is the responsibility given to me by the premier and I intend to pursue that goal."

Party president Raymond Archambault said all the options are on the table.

"The one thing that is certain is that the opposition wants to defeat the government's budget," he said.

Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau and Treasury Board President Stephane Bedard would not say if they'll table a budget before the start of the next campaign.

"I'm preparing the budget now," he said. "The rest is up to the premier."

The first and only budget presented by Marceau was in 2012.

Marois had no comments for reporters when she arrived at the caucus meeting by helicopter.

Since the beginning of the week, about eight ministers have made funding announcements in the province. Labour Minister Agnes Maltais announced Wednesday the province's minimum wage is going up by 20 cents to $10.35 for regular workers and $8.90 for tip-earners. The increase takes effect on May 1.

Sylvie Roy, a spokeswoman for the Coalition For Quebec's Future, accused the government of making the announcements to court the electorate.

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