Charest brushes off Paris Mayor's meeting with student leaders
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, left, smiles after he received the title of officer of the Ordre National du Quebec from Quebec Premier Jean Charest at the legislature in Quebec City, Tuesday, July 3, 2012. (Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, July 4, 2012 8:47AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 4, 2012 8:49AM EDT
QUEBEC CITY - Premier Jean Charest is downplaying the importance of a meeting between Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and student protest leaders on the tuition issue.
Before coming to Quebec to participate in the World Forum on the French Language, Delanoe asked for a meeting with the student reps.
A few hours before receiving the Quebec honour known as the Ordre National, Delanoe met student leaders of the FEUQ, the FECQ and the TACEQ.
Just prior to the ceremony, held in at the National Assembly in Quebec City, Charest declared that the socialist politician was free to meet with anybody within civil society.
“There was never any question of discouraging him at any time, let’s be clear about that, if someone says the opposite, it’s the opposite of what actually happened,” said Charest.
Charest noted that the Parisian maintained his neutrality by refusing to pronounce no the Quebec tuition issue.
Following the ceremony Delanoe said he’s interested in hearing the student leaders’ point of view on the subject.
“Quebec is a democracy and it’s not our business to interfere with their democratic debates,” he said. “While I was here I listened to, and I mean really listened to, the student leaders to try to understand why they are taking these positions. However, I did not take sides.”
In his reception speech, the mayor did not address the tuition issue but acknowledged that he sometimes disagrees with Charest.
“It’s true we have a friendship that goes beyond our political differences, he’s a liberal and, perhaps you didn’t know, but I’m a socialist,” he said.
Earlier, FEUQ President Martine Desjardins confirmed that the French politician was interested in learning more about the impact of the tuition hikes on French students in Quebec.
In an interview following the meeting, Desjardins declared that the mayor avoided taking a position on the debate but confirmed that Delanoe hoped to better understand the student movement.
But the fact that he asked for the meeting two weeks ago showed that the students are running a credible movement, in her view.
“It has been undeniable since the start that we have a solid credibility but the fact that the mayor sought to meet us shows that the interest isn’t confined to Quebec,” she said.
Delanoe is the second French Socialist to inquire about the tuition issue.
Jack Lang, former Culture and Education Minister had previously voiced his opposition to the government’s position.
Charest then called Lang to ensure that he was well-informed on the issue.