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Quebec legislature dissolved; election set

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 6:15 p.m.

MONTREAL — Quebec's premier dissolved the legislature on Wednesday and called an election in a bid to gain a majority of seats for her pro-independence party, a development that could lead to another referendum on separation from Canada.

The possibility of a breakaway, however, remained distant. Opinion polls indicate the idea lacks popular support, and Parti Quebecois Premier Pauline Marois steered clear of the issue.

Marois said she needs a majority to revive Quebec's economy and protect the province's distinct identity. She made no mention of sovereignty or another referendum.

“I'm asking you to give us the means to act,” Marois said. “We have a plan and the team to make our plan succeed.”

Voters in the French-speaking province of 8.1 million will head to the polls on April 7.

The PQ is leading in the polls, followed by the Liberals and the Coalition for Quebec's Future.

The PQ's ultimate goal is to separate from Canada, but there's no guarantee the party will hold a referendum if it gets a majority. Marois has so far only promised to hold public hearings.

It has been nearly two decades since Quebec held a referendum on sovereignty. The province has held two such votes to split from Canada, most recently in 1995, when it narrowly rejected independence.

Marois took no questions from journalists after her statement, but she said in the past she'll hold a referendum when the time is right.

Polls show support for Quebec independence remains stuck at about 40 percent and hasn't changed significantly in 10 years.

Martin Papillon, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa, said those numbers won't necessarily deter the PQ.

“Of course support is low; it hasn't been mobilized. It hasn't been activated as a political issue,” Papillon said.

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