Opposition threatens to take down government after inaugural address
Published Wednesday, October 31, 2012 12:34PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 31, 2012 9:34PM EDT
MONTREAL—Only hours after Pauline Marois delivered the first address from a Parti Quebecois premier in nine years, the opposition benches of a divided National Assembly vowed to make it her last.
With his party’s time in power compared to mental hibernation by Marois, interim Liberal leader Jean-Marc Fournier told reporters that his caucus would not vote in favour of Marois’ speech, now resting as a confidence motion in the assembly.
A senior aide to Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault confirmed with The Canadian Press that the second opposition would also reject Marois’ speech.
With a vote expected within 10 days, the 69 seats controlled by the main opposition parties would be enough to take down Marois’ government and send Quebecers back to the polls.
For over an hour on Wednesday afternoon, the new leader set out an ambitious set of priorities for her minority government. With the Charbonneau Commission capturing the attention of Quebecers, Marois set her government’s sights on tackling corruption.
“Quebecers are a largely honest people,” said Marois. “We will fight those people who have tarnished our reputation.
“Corruption isn’t a Quebecois phenomenon.”
With ending corruption at the centre of her administration, Marois vowed “tolerance zero” as she prepares to table an anti-corruption bill during her first Question Period on Thursday. Political reforms would be part of the program, as the PQ will call for fixed election dates and term limits for future premiers and mayors.
“Let us inspire ourselves from Rene Levesque and banish money from politics, once and for all,” said Marois.
The premier also did not rule out a fall budget. According to pundits, tabling a budget so soon after taking power would be risky, but the gamble could pay off if the opposition would not be willing to send Quebecers back to the polls in the snow. That still remains to be seen.
Under Marois’ government, a new Charter of the French Language will be introduced to counter what the premier called a “decline of French in Montreal.” With her backbench cheering, the premier promised that the charter would be undertaken with "respect for Anglophones."
Another government priority during the short six-week session in Quebec City will be getting the public finances in order. Soon after taking office, PQ Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau announced that the public books were in worse shape than expected. He soon backtracked on a promise to abolish a controversial $200 health tax when it seemed economically unfeasible.
Marceau instead called for new top income rate of 25.75 per cent for those making above $100,000.
"A house in order requires finances to be in order," said Marois, targeting former Finance Minister Raymond Bachand. The Outremont MNA is now a candidate to lead the Liberal Party.
With some in the opposition calling her speech unfocused, Marois made a slew of economic announcements: a new agency to oversee transportation construction, a new mining agency, a new northern development agency, a plan to develop the province’s petroleum reserves, a new economic development fund, and a wood council to encourage forestry.
“Protecting the environment is not an obstacle to economic development,” said Marois, who pledged to shift Jean Charest’s legacy project, Plan Nord, towards sustainable development. A multi-billion dollar, quarter-century project, Plan Nord is a plan to install infrastructure across Quebec’s vast northern wilderness to encourage mining and forestry.
Calling for Quebec to be the world’s “fittest nation with 10 years,” Marois promised to make physical education and sports a cornerstone of the province from kindergarten to retirement homes.
While the premier warned that she had “no magic solution” for either the province’s health or educational systems, she pledged to fix Quebec’s public daycare system in four years, ensuring every child has a guaranteed spot. She also announced a five year plan to move the starting age of kindergarten to four.
For the thousands without a family doctor, Marois pledged to find a general practitioner for 750,000 Quebecers within two years.
Speaking after Marois’ speech, Legault criticized the lack of a clear budget message from the premier. The CAQ leader also pointed out the lack of any mention of municipal governance problems in Montreal.
—with files from The Canadian Press.