Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Quebec values charter bound for failure: Harper

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PRIME Minister Stephen Harper predicts the Parti Qu©b©cois' controversial values charter will fail because of opposition within Quebec.

The prime minister made his first remarks since the Quebec government released a plan last week that would bar people with religious headwear from working in the public service.

Harper was asked during a news conference Monday about the controversial proposal, following the release of a poll on the subject.

"I do not see the charter in its current form going anywhere," Harper told the B.C. news conference.

"I think the common sense of Quebecers will force this towards a reasonable conclusion as the debate progresses."

Despite the PQ's repeated efforts to turn the debate into a Quebec-versus-Canada squabble, including numerous complaints from the PQ about media coverage in English Canada, Harper noted the support is also less than stellar within Quebec.

Harper pointed out none of the three other parties in the Quebec legislature supports the PQ plan in its current form.

He was speaking after the release of a poll Monday that suggested a perfect split in Quebec public opinion -- although the response specifically from francophones was 49 per cent support for the PQ plan, 34 per cent opposed, and 17 per cent refusing to answer.

That finding suggests a notable shift from similar polls before the plan was formally introduced, when a crushing majority had expressed support for a charter like the one the PQ proposed.

"What we're seeing overall is a pretty significant drop in support -- a 14-point drop in overall support for the project," said Sebastien Dallaire, vice-president public affairs for Leger.

"The (public) reactions were highly emotional and often negative, if not very negative," said Dallaire. "So it's not surprising to have seen Quebecers recoil."

The Leger poll of 2,000 does point to one area of the province where the charter is especially popular: the northern and southern belt around Montreal.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 17, 2013 A6

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