Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he sides with the small-c conservative voters of Quebec during a Fête Nationale speech that emphasized his anti-niqab stance for citizenship ceremonies and promised a "respectful end of life" to seniors.
Mr. Harper and the Conservatives are making a precise pitch to voters in Quebec, hoping to win a handful of seats in the Oct. 19 election in Quebec City and in rural and semi-rural areas of the province.
Instead of following the other major party leaders to Montreal on the June 24 provincial holiday, Mr. Harper gave a speech in Sainte-Marie, south of Quebec City, to state his support for the small-c conservative values that are the hallmarks of the Beauce region.
"Never let anyone tell you that conservative values are not the values of Quebec," Mr. Harper told the crowd gathered at a community centre. "When I go to Quebec, what I hear is that people want to save more money and pay fewer taxes, that they want more jobs for their families and their communities, that they want their neighbourhoods, their villages and their cities to be safe."
Referring to recently introduced legislation, which has yet to be passed, Mr. Harper said Quebeckers told him that they want "new citizens to swear their oath with their faces uncovered," before being interrupted by applause.
He then added that his government "wants our elders to enjoy a comfortable and respectful end of life."
The Conservative government has to respond to a Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to physician-assisted death by next February. However, the Prime Minister's comment suggested he is aware that many older Quebeckers have objections to assisted suicide, as revealed by a recent debate over provincial legislation on the matter.
Earlier this month, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the Conservative government, if re-elected in October, would ask the court to extend its February deadline on a decision whether to legalize physician-assisted death. Mr. MacKay said the government wants to ensure that vulnerable people, such as those with Alzheimer's disease, are protected from having pressure put on them to seek death when they do not want to do so.
The Liberal Party and the NDP, on the other hand, have urged the government to move quickly to bring in new legislation to deal with the ruling.
In his speech, delivered almost entirely in French, Mr. Harper sought to reassure Quebeckers that his Conservative government is a strong promoter of the French language and Quebec's political aspirations "inside Canada."
"That is what we have built together, and this is what we will soon be defending," he said.
Mr. Harper was accompanied at the event by Beauce MP and junior minister Maxime Bernier, Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel and nearby MP Jacques Gourde. The Prime Minister has events planned on Thursday in Quebec City and at CFB Bagotville in the Saguenay region.