PQ victory means change, not separation: Harper
Published Thursday, September 6, 2012 5:43PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:09PM EDT
The Parti Quebecois may have won the Quebec election Tuesday night, but voters did not give Pauline Marois’ minority government the green light to pursue a separation from Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.
"The people of Quebec voted for change, a pretty strong desire for change . . . at the same time, I think it was pretty clear they were denying any kind of a mandate to pursue the separation of Quebec or the division of the country," Harper said at Bloomberg’s Canada-Asia Dialogue conference in Vancouver.
"That's certainly how we interpret it, and that's how the government of Quebec will be forced to interpret it, one way or the other."
It was the first time Harper spoke publicly about the outcome of the Quebec election. The PQ’s victory is widely seen as the beginning of a new period of tensions between a sovereigntist Quebec leader and the federal government.
Harper’s office issued a statement congratulating Marois on election night, but it was quick to suggest that Ottawa will not concede to the PQ’s demands.
“We do not believe that Quebecers wish to revisit the old constitutional battles of the past,” the statement said. “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.”
During the election campaign, Marois said she would be calling Harper shortly after taking office to ask him to transfer powers in areas like immigration, language, employment insurance and foreign aid from Ottawa to Quebec.
But political observers say Harper won’t engage in any such negotiations with Marois, although efforts will be made to maintain a respectful relationship between Ottawa and Quebec City.
"I've indicated to the premier (that), as with all provinces, we will continue to be focused on the interests of the Canadian economy," Harper said.
Unlike in 1976, when the Parti Quebecois was first elected to form a government in Quebec, global investors haven’t panicked at the prospect of separatists in power.
But they are worried about Quebec’s crushing debt, which is the highest in Canada.
“What foreign investors would be concerned about is the state of public finances in the province of Quebec,” Lawrence Herman, an expert in international trade policy, told CTV News.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife