Marois pledges to toughen language laws, abolish tuition hikes
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2012 8:30AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 5, 2012 8:50AM EDT
Quebec’s Premier-elect Pauline Marois says her main priorities in office will include toughening the province’s language laws and abolishing the proposed tuition fee increases that were the cause of massive student protests and civil unrest over the summer.
Speaking during a news conference on Wednesday, just one day after the Parti Quebecois were elected to the National Assembly with a minority government, Marois said that despite the party’s minority status she will work with the opposition to accomplish the PQ’s goals.
Marois said she hopes to push for amendments to Bill 101 – the set of laws that govern and restrict the use of languages other than French in the province.
Bill 101 was first implemented in 1977 and has been amended several times by various governments.
The PQ leader also told reporters she was deeply saddened by the fatal shooting that took place outside the venue where her acceptance speech was being delivered.
One man was killed and another was injured when gunfire erupted at the Metropolis concert hall Tuesday night. Police have since arrested a suspect.
She told reporters that she does not believe there is any connection between the rhetoric of the campaign and Tuesday’s deadly incident.
Marois said she will work with the other parties to implement as many of the PQ’s proposed changes as possible.
“I will have the support of the opposition. I will have discussions with the opposition because, you know, we have a mandate from the part of the population,” she said. “I have and we have –not only me, we have the responsibility to serve the people of Quebec.”
The PQ won 54 of the province's 125 seats, nine short of a majority, but enough to form a slim minority government.
The Liberals were close behind, winning 50 seats with former Premier Jean Charest losing his seat.
The election also saw the ten-month-old Coalition for Quebec's Future (CAQ) win 19 seats, including leader Francois Legault. Quebec Solidaire won two seats, both of which will be filled by its co-leaders, Amir Khadir and Francoise David.
Following his defeat, Charest announced his resignation as Liberal leader on Wednesday during a press conference in Quebec City.
Charest told reporters that he will leave his position as the province’s Liberal leader in a few days – a position he held for 14 years, including nine as premier.
The defeated premier said he leaves office proud of his party’s accomplishments on the economic front, as well as in the areas of health care, education, poverty reduction and the environment.
“I announce my departure without any regrets,” he said.
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Marois: ‘We will govern with all other parties’
During her acceptance speech Tuesday, the PQ leader spoke of working with the other parties to govern in accordance with the wishes of Quebecers.
"Voters have made a choice and we will respect it, and we will govern with all other parties at the national assembly," Marois said late Tuesday night.
But the celebrations were cut short by a deadly shooting incident outside the Montreal nightclub where the party was being held.
Just before bodyguards hurried Marois from the podium, she had been delivering a message not typically heard from PQ leaders in the past.
"We share the same history, and I want us to shape together our common future," she said, addressing the province’s Anglophone population.
Working as a minority
Marois’ conciliatory message to English-speaking Quebecers came on the heels of her party's slimmest-ever mandate: just under 32 per cent of the popular vote. That’s the lowest that has ever ushered the sovereigntist party into power.
Congratulating Marois on her election win, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear he would prefer the PQ continue on that path.
"We don't believe Quebecers want to reopen the old constitutional quarrels of the past," Harper said in a statement issued Tuesday evening, his first official comment after five weeks of silence on the provincial election.
"Our government will remain focused on jobs, economic growth and good economic management. We believe economic issues and jobs are also the priority of Quebecers. In that sense, we will continue working with the Government of Quebec on those common objectives."
Marois will indeed have to find common ground with her political rivals, as popular support for the PQ was less than one percentage point ahead of the Liberals. Elected to 50 seats, they avoided the electoral humiliation many pundits and pollsters had expected.
Given the minority status of the newly-elected PQ, it remains to be seen how many of goals Marois will be able to accomplish, said La Presse journalist Martin Croteau.
Croteau told CTV’s Power Play that the Liberals are unlikely to give Marois much support on the sovereignty agenda and will likely not support her more contentious language reforms – including a plan to extend French language restrictions up to the CEGEP level.
Marois’ plans for the provincial public college program would require all francophone and allophone students to attend colleges that provide instruction only in French.
“It’s not clear how much she will be able to persuade the other parties to tag along in her agenda,” said Croteau.
In the end it may have been the PQ’s divisive language that landed them in a minority position, Croteau said.
According to Croteau, the ridings on the island that voted for Quebec Solidaire candidates would traditionally be expected to vote PQ.
“It is possible that the identity agenda put forward by Madame Marois may have contributed to fragmenting support for her as well,” he said.