MONTREAL, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Quebec Premier Jean Charest defended his economic record and efforts to weed out corruption during a debate with election opponents in Montreal.
Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois questioned why the Liberal Party leader took two years to call for a public inquiry into corruption in the construction industry and Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault belittled Charest's prowess in nurturing economic growth, while Quebec Solidaire co-leader Francoise David went after Marois on her party's sovereignty referendum strategy, The Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto reported.
Marois vowed in Sunday's debate that she would stand up to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government.
"I won't get on my knees like Mr. Charest has done and abandon the fight against Ottawa as [Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader François] Legault has done," Marois said. "I will fight for the interests of Quebec."
"As Quebec walks, the other provinces run," Legault said, noting Quebec's economy has fallen from fourth to ninth among all provinces in disposable income per capita.
David questioned why Marois "can't clearly commit to a public consultation to define who you plan on achieving sovereignty."
For his part, Charest said Marois' party's primary goal is to achieve sovereignty and hold a referendum "as quickly as possible."
Charest, who has been in office nine years, said he is best-positioned to marshal the province's economy going forward, saying Quebec came back from the recession faster than Ontario, the United States and Europe. He defended his record on corruption by attacking his opponents, noting the PQ had its own problems with financing activities dating to 2006 and that Marois had taken money from a teenager to help finance her leadership race, The Globe and Mail said.
Sunday's debate was the first of a four-day series of debates ahead of the Sept. 4 election.