French finance minister dips a toe into Quebec values debate

MIRABEL, Que. – A high-ranking French politician has weighed into Quebec’s values debate, very tentatively, with praise for the idea of a secular state.

France’s finance minister was asked about the values charter controversy during a news conference where he was standing beside Premier Pauline Marois.

Marois’ Parti Quebecois wants to forbid religious headwear for public employees, and has cited France as one place where similar policies have been enacted.

The French finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, said he didn’t want to “be offering lessons to anyone,” but then he proceeded to extol the general principle of a religion-free state.

He called secularism a beautiful notion that has long been at the heart of France’s vision of government and which actually creates unity — not division.

Marois declined to take a question on the values charter. She has adopted the custom lately of only answering questions on the chosen topic of a given news conference.

In this case, she and Moscovici were in Mirabel, Que., to announce a provincial loan for $10 million and grant for $5 million, and a $2.4 million federal contribution, to create a plant for assembling airplane fuselage for the French firm Aerolia.

The $82.4 million plant is expected to create 170 jobs.

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