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With Canada’s four medals all won by Quebeckers, Parti Quebecois leader says province could shine as independent country

Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois reacts during a news conference in Montreal, on June 6, 2011.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The leader of the pro-independence Parti Quebecois couldn't resist drawing some political lessons from the fact that Canada's first four Olympic medals have been won by Quebeckers.

PQ Leader Pauline Marois called it just one example of how Quebec could shine among the world's brightest on the world stage, as an independent country.

She was responding to a question at a press conference about the four bronze medals, all won by Quebec athletes.

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Marois was holding that news conference to introduce PQ election candidates.

It's expected that a provincial election will be called Wednesday for Sept. 4, and according to surveys Marois will enter the campaign as the slight favourite to become premier.

A reporter asked Marois for a reaction to the medals in diving, judo and weightlifting. In her response, she linked the results to her own cause.

"I'd like to congratulate Quebec's athletes. We're always so proud when we see them rise to the podium," Marois replied Tuesday.

"I was telling someone earlier: I was education minister and there were also Olympics for professional training and Quebec would always win more medals than the other provinces. I was always very proud of that.

"This means, among other things, that it's another example of how Quebec could shine among the brightest ... as an independent country. We could continue to win our medals, I'm sure of that."

She noted that even Premier Jean Charest, a staunch supporter of Canadian unity, had in the past said that Quebec could succeed as an independent country.

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The PQ usually downplays talk of independence during election campaigns, in the hope of wooing swing voters.

But the party has already said that, if elected, it will allow a referendum on different topics – including independence – if enough citizens sign a petition to hold one, as is done in the U.S. and other places with citizen-led referendums.

The PQ has also indicated that it plans to stage fights with Ottawa to wrest new powers in areas like immigration and the environment.

It plans to use those battles to build support for independence.

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