PM congratulates Marois, unlikely to yield federal powers to Quebec
Published Tuesday, September 4, 2012 6:36PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 4, 2012 11:26PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to congratulate the Parti Quebecois and its leader Pauline Marois on winning a minority government on Tuesday.
However, political insiders say while Marois is expected to push the prime minister for more provincial powers, Harper is unlikely to concede to the PQ’s demands.
“We do not believe that Quebecers wish to revisit the old constitutional battles of the past,” said Harper in a statement issued shortly after the PQ’s were named the victor in Quebec’s provincial election.
“Our government will remain focused on jobs, economic growth and sound management of the economy. We believe that economic issues and jobs are also the priorities of the people of Quebec.”
While Marois has said one of her first tasks as premier would be to contact Harper, CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said Tuesday night that the prime minister is expected to take a “business as usual” approach to the PQ win.
“So he won’t be sitting down with Pauline Marois and negotiating a list of surrendering federal powers,” said Fife.
“In fact, officials say he believes the rest of the country would very strongly oppose the Canadian federal government being hostage to a separatist government in Quebec.”
Prior to her taking Quebec’s top political job, Marois said she would talk to Harper about transferring more powers to the province in the areas of employment insurance, language and immigration.
Following her win on Tuesday, Fife warned that managing the relationship between the federal government and Quebec will not be an easy task.
“(Harper) has been demonized in the province and he only has five MPs from the province,” he said.
During the month-long election campaign there was little, if any, political influence from outside Quebec, and federal politicians were reportedly asked to refrain from tweeting about the results on Tuesday.
One of the first federal political figures to comment on the results was interim Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae, who tweeted: “Quebec voters reject separatist project. This is the key point that must not be lost.”
Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton tweeted: “Proud to be part of the NDP team that believes in fighting for National Unity!”
McGill political science professor Antonia Maioni said the lack interest from outside Quebec during the campaign could point to future troubles with the province’s relationship with the rest of the country.
“What’s a little bit more disconcerting is not so much that people didn’t step in or make a lot of noise in the rest of Canada, but this sort of idea that it really doesn’t matter what happens in Quebec,” Maioni told CTV’s Power Play on Tuesday.
Despite the PQ’s advocacy for national sovereignty, public policy analyst Graham Fox said the possibility of a referendum in the province remains unlikely.
Fox pointed to a recent public opinion poll that showed support for a sovereign Quebec stood at 27 per cent.
“I think the Quebec electorate is quite sophisticated in knowing that they can choose a Parti Quebecois government, who in past generations has provided relatively good governance and good public policy for the province, taking aside the issue of sovereignty and reserve judgment on whether they want sovereignty later.”
However, within parts of Quebec an undercurrent of uncertainty accompanied the election results as some feared Quebec’s business and real estate market could take a hit following the PQ win.
Realtor Monique Assouline told CTV News she has noticed some jitters from buyers in Montreal’s suburbs which have seen almost a 50 per cent drop in home sales compared to the same time last year.
“They are worried, so they want to take their time,” she said.