The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

After meeting with Harper, Marois says she's 'very satisfied'

  • Print

ESTEREL, Que. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first substantive meeting with the new premier of Quebec was relatively amicable, to hear her tell it Friday.

Pauline Marois said the prime minister promised to consult with the provinces while negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, just as they have been consulted during the ongoing talks with the European Union.

She said he also agreed his government would seek local input while refurbishing the federally run share of Montreal's Champlain Bridge.

And she said he sought to reassure her that his reforms to Employment Insurance would be flexible enough to accommodate regions with many seasonal jobs.

The premier — who had promised to clash swords with Ottawa when she was elected — said the encounter actually went quite well.

"I must say I'm very satisfied with this meeting," Marois told reporters after.

But Marois said she still has doubts about the EI reforms and will assess whether the prime minister's reassurances ring true.

A meeting between the federal and provincial ministers on the file, Diane Finley and Agnes Maltais, has been scheduled for Feb. 11.

"I told him I would be very skeptical," Marois said. "I still have serious doubts and I will continue to be very vigiliant."

It was their first significant discussion about policy since Marois took office.

The pro-independence premier was elected Sept. 4; her party campaigned on a plan to confront Ottawa on a series of issues and use each one to advance the cause of Quebec independence.

As one prominent Pequiste described it at the time, it was a win-win proposition for the separatist party: either the PQ would get things from the feds or, in the case of failure, would use each case as an argument for sovereignty.

The two leaders had met for an introductory chat at a Francophonie summit in Africa late last year. On Friday, Harper was in Quebec attending a funding announcement for a ferry system in the provincial capital.

The federal government will kick in roughly one-third of the estimated $19 million to refurbish the ferry from Levis, Que., across the river from Quebec City.

Harper made the announcement with Marois, whom he met with privately afterward. They held separate news conferences, however, because Marois wouldn't agree on the prime minister's more tightly controlled conditions for holding a media event.

At his news conference, Harper was asked about the damage his EI reforms might do in Quebec, with its large number of seasonal workers in tourism, forestry and fisheries.

He was also asked whether he might transfer some responsibility for EI to the province, as Marois' PQ government is demanding.

Harper didn't have much to say on the matter. He simply replied that the program would continue to operate out of Ottawa.

"Employment Insurance is clearly a federal responsibility under the Canadian Constitution," Harper replied.

"The federal government intends to live up to its responsibilities in that regard."

He also avoided saying too much when asked about Marois' less-than-triumphant trip to Scotland this week.

The PQ premier had earlier hyped her meeting with the Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond as a landmark opportunity to discuss separation strategies. But the Scottish leader didn't take her up on an offer to share old referendum files and didn't appear with her in public.

That trip to Edinburgh has earned Marois ribbing from opponents and commentators back home. Some have also bemoaned her performance in an interview with the BBC, where she struggled with some English turns of phrase.

Harper was asked whether it was appropriate for the premier to have been pitching independence abroad.

He didn't bite. He simply used the opportunity to point to the case as an example of Canada's flexible federal system.

"In our federation, premiers have the right to travel and to promote their agenda and their programs," Harper said.

"It's the nature of our federation, and I won't comment on the trips of other first ministers."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Drew Willy signs with Bombers through 2017

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009
  • A Canada goose makes takes flight on Wilkes Ave Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 Day goose a day challenge- Day 09- May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


What should the new royal baby be named?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google