Kelly McParland has this much right: of course any federal government would work with any government of Quebec on routine files. That doesn’t change if the government in question belongs to the Parti Québécois. Trudeau and Chrétien did, and sometimes not just on routine files. Trudeau sat around a table with René Lévesque at nine first ministers’ meetings. Chrétien and Lucien Bouchard amended the constitution to eliminate denominational school boards in Quebec, even though Bouchard wailed and gnashed his teeth throughout the process. So when Christian Paradis says he’ll get along with a PQ government, he’s not doing anything particularly nutty.
It’s still worth noting that in 2006 and 2007, Stephen Harper worked hard to support Charest, whom he repeatedly (and accurately) called “the most federalist Quebec premier in my lifetime.” Back then Harper’s strategic goal was to set up a sharp distinction between the treatment a Quebec Liberal government could expect and the fate reserved for a PQ government. That goal seems to have been abandoned, or pursuing it seems to be too hard for Paradis. One’s almost tempted to suspect that if Paradis is saying nice things about the PQ, it’s in the hope that some of the Harper government’s unpopularity will rub off on Marois, but the real explanation is probably less complicated.
The real question, highly hypothetical, is how a federal government would respond if, say, a Pauline Marois government announces a referendum on a plan to seize a bunch of areas of federal jurisdiction for Quebec. Such a plan was the centrepiece of Jean-François Lisée’s unreadable 2000 book Sortie de secours. But we’re getting several steps ahead of ourselves now.