Premier Marois to roll back tuition hikes, create new Bill 101
MONTREAL--In her first news conference following her election as leader of a minority government, Pauline Marois made her agenda clear: she will roll back tuition hikes and introduce a new language law.
"My government will use a decree to eliminate tuition hikes. We will also work to eliminate Bill 78," said Marois.
"Then there is the decline of French in Montreal and the Outaouis region. This is at the centre of my goals," said Marois.
"I will introduce a new Bill 101."
During the election campaign the Parti Quebecois proposed extending the restrictions on linguistic education rights to the CEGEP level, meaning francophone and allophone adults would not be able to choose to attend an English-language CEGEP.
In an indication of her political limitations, Marois never once referred to an independence referendum during her post-election news conference and no reporter bothered asking about one.
The PQ also proposed that businesses with as little as 10 employees would also be forced to conduct all work in French. Under the existing law only companies with 50 or more employees must obtain a Certificate of Francisation.
"I am certain all Quebecers will understand this is necessary and the other parties will work together," said Marois.
"This law will require consultations and I will want to work with the opposition parties. I want all Quebecers to know what my proposition is, which is to go as far as possible, if the opposition permits."
Marois says she still plans to push the Harper Tories on multiple fronts. Her battles will be more carefully chosen, however.
She said she will pore through past statements in the national assembly and find other party positions on federal issues that might resemble her own.
She said the federalist outgoing premier, Jean Charest, had made 15 requests to Ottawa on things ranging from the gun registry to criminal penalties to securities regulation. She noted that Charest had even mused about extending language laws to federally regulated companies during the campaign, before backtracking.
Marois also noted that the Coalition party's Francois Legault had also urged a tougher federal stance on the environment.
These preoccupations will become the PQ government's preoccupations, she said.
Working in a minority
Marois was confident she could implement much of her party's program within a minority government, and the first step would be wiping out tuition hikes.
"My government will cancel university tuition hikes by decree. Bill 78 will therefore have no reason to exist," said Marois.
The student protests that occupied Montreal during much of the spring were the reason the election was called, but were not discussed much during the campaign.
At their peak about one in three students in Quebec were supposedly taking part in a class boycott, but by the end of August most student associations in Quebec had voted to return to school.
Marois is also planning to increase the number of subsidized daycare spots in the province.
"I have the goal of accelerating the daycare network so every family that wants a spot will have one."
Marois plans to present her cabinet within two weeks.
She said her government will take steps to ensure the Caisse de Depot works to protect Quebec-based companies, and that Hydro-Quebec is responsive to the needs of Quebecers.
Marois also wants to eliminate the $200/year health tax, but that will likely require help from other parties in the National Assembly.
However she accepted that she was not the first choice of most Quebecers, but wouldn't speculate if more minority governments were likely in the future.
"I wish I had a majority, but the population decided otherwise," said Marois.
"We are now in a multi-party system, when we grew up in a system that was bipartisan."
Marois said she also had a pleasant first discussion with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who congratulated her on her win.
"I spoke to Mr. Harper this morning. It was a cordial first discussion."
Reaction to shooting
Marois's victory speech was cut short when a man opened fire inside the theatre while she was talking.
She was whisked offstage by her bodyguards in mid-speech.
"When they took me away they told me that a man was injured, lightly, I saw the fire and the smoke bomb," said Marois.
"It seemed that everything was under control."
She said that when police told her the building must be evacuated since it was now a crime scene, she insisted on going back to the podium and informing the audience.
"I said... I must speak to my people. I never thought I could be the cause, that it was me that would be attacked."
She only learned later in the night that one man had been killed at the scene.
"My thoughts are with the victims and their families. Despite this tragedy it must be said that Quebec is a non-violent society. the act of one man is not enough to destroy this."
--with files from The Canadian Press.