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Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois arrives for a campaign rally in Montreal on Sunday. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS)
Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois arrives for a campaign rally in Montreal on Sunday. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS)

Marois’s promise of sovereignty short on details Add to ...

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois released her party’s provincial election platform Sunday, promising sovereignty for Quebeckers but refusing to explain how and when she intends to achieve her “dream.”

The platform reiterates the PQ’s deliberately ambiguous position on holding a referendum on the issue. It says a PQ government would “achieve sovereignty after consulting the population in a referendum that will be held at a time it deems to be appropriate.”

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Journalist Jean-François Lisée, who acted as an adviser to Ms. Marois on sovereignty, said a commitment to a referendum in the next mandate would amount to political suicide and hand another victory to Liberal Leader Jean Charest.

“It would be a passport for another Charest mandate,” Mr. Lisée said during a news conference Saturday, after officially announcing he was running for the PQ. “Our strength is our ability to react. If we put ourselves in cement as to when we do this or that we lose our advantage.”

But he insisted the possibility of holding a referendum should not be closed and that it is an issue that needs to be examined in due course.

Mr. Lisée’s position quickly became the target of Liberal attacks. Over the weekend, Mr. Charest frequently referred to a recent book that contains praise from Mr. Lisée on how the Quebec economy has outperformed much of the world since the 2008 financial crisis.

“He is talking about our government’s record,” Mr. Charest boasted in a speech.

Mr. Charest insisted that the PQ, and its intention to hold another referendum on sovereignty, can only hurt Quebec’s standing in the world if it wins the election on Sept. 4. “Everything is indicating that the economic situation will keep on improving ... if we stick with the same government,” Mr. Charest said.

Ms. Marois appeared to have her hands full with the ambivalence of the party position on sovereignty. Yet she needs to keep the dream alive to ensure that pro-sovereignty supporters are drawn back into the party fold after abandoning the PQ in the two previous elections. “We have a mission to accomplish. We have a mission to change governments to change directions and to change countries,” she said on Sunday

Right now changing governments is Ms. Marois’ first priority, not sovereignty. “What is at stake in this election campaign is getting rid of the Liberal regime. Why? Because we want and have to recover our pride as a people,” she said.

Should the PQ form the next government the next step will be to launch an offensive against the Harper government in Ottawa in the hope that the confrontations will reignite the nationalist fervour. Ms. Marois said she plans to use the campaign to show that the provincial Liberals are working hand in hand with the Conservatives in Ottawato impose values and choices that harm Quebec’s interests.

“Jean Charest has made other choices. He has chosen to abandon our language. He has chosen [to develop] shale gas. He has chosen to give the North to mining companies. He has chosen confrontation with students. He has chosen to divide Quebeckers … He has chosen to let Stephen Harper choose.

“Part of our salaries, profits from businesses and sales go to Ottawa. That is Stephen Harper. He has chosen to finance oil companies, prisons, military ships and planes. That isn’t our choice,” Ms. Marois said.

The PQ platform emphasises the need for Quebec to exercise control over employment insurance, cultural policies and some economic areas where the federal government plays a major role. The PQ also wants a say over trade negotiations with other countries and other international forums. It is what Ms. Marois calls “acting like a sovereign government” while still being a province of Canada.

The platform also calls for more government intervention in the economy, more generous social programs for the elderly and families with children, as well as the long-standing promise to freeze university tuition fees and abolish the unpopular $200-a-year health tax.

One of the ways the PQ plans to pay for the new programs is to significantly increase mining duties and boost taxes on high-income earners.

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