New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair promises to carry the torch for some of the Parti Québécois government's demands to Ottawa as long as it doesn't play havoc with national unity.
Mr. Mulcair will meet on Friday in Montreal with PQ Premier Pauline Marois to discuss issues the NDP might be willing to defend on Quebec's behalf with the Harper government. It will be the first meeting between the two party leaders since Ms. Marois formed a minority government after last month's election.
The PQ and the NDP share values on social issues such as the protection of pensions, workers' rights, gun control and the rehabilitation of young offenders. And they have often adopted similar positions on the environment such as tougher controls to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the need for more sustainable development.
But Mr. Mulcair said if the PQ plans to use the issues to create a confrontation that could boost Ms. Marois' sovereignty agenda, the NDP will be quick to condemn the strategy.
"Sometimes, Quebec has some different demands [from those of other provinces], and we need to respect those particularities. I will listen carefully and help whenever I can. If it involves issues that interest most Quebeckers, I will support them. But if I understand that [the PQ] position aims at showing that Canada doesn't work, I will act accordingly," Mr. Mulcair warned.
Even before his party swept Quebec in last year's federal election, winning 59 of the province's 75 seats, Mr. Mulcair took several bold steps that have appealed to francophone voters in the province. He recalled, for instance, that in 2010, he strongly criticized the former Charest government for adopting legislation that allowed children of wealthy francophone and immigrant parents to enroll in English-language public schools by attending so-called bridging schools. The PQ has promised to invoke the notwithstanding clause if necessary to repeal the legislation, which the Liberals adopted after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a ban on bridging schools in 2009.
Mr. Mulcair will seek to consolidate NDP support among francophone voters before the next federal election in 2015, and is closely watching the impact a Quebecker such as Justin Trudeau would have on voters if he is chosen to lead the federal Liberal Party.