Marois isolated from her Parti Quebecois predecessors on values charter plan

MONTREAL – The Parti Quebecois’ present leadership is becoming increasingly isolated on its charter-values project, with a succession of former premiers calling for changes.

First, there was a column by Jacques Parizeau. Today there’s a newspaper interview by Lucien Bouchard. And even Bernard Landry, who had so vociferously defended the government in recent weeks, now appears to be calling for a compromise.

If Premier Pauline Marois was planning to launch an election campaign on the values charter, and to present its opponents as Quebec-bashing federalists, her old allies are gumming up the message.

Marois wouldn’t comment directly on her predecessors’ comments today.

She declined to say how much weight she might give them, as her government prepares to table the charter this fall and amid rumours of a possible election.

“We will weigh all this advice,” the premier said.

“I think it’s important to take the time to properly analyze all these points of view that have been expressed. What’s certain is that we will go forward with legislation that allows us to properly define the rules of living together.

“I believe that will unite us, rather than divide us.”

Parizeau and Bouchard have come out to say they are in favour of certain parts of the charter, but are against the controversial plan to ban all state employees from wearing overt religious symbols.

They said a ban should apply only to certain professions — such as judges, police officers and prison guards — who have “coercive” power.

They both also called for the crucifix to be removed from the main legislature chamber, which is at odds with Marois’ position.

Bouchard said it would be rather bizarre for the PQ to take a more ardent stand on keeping the cross there than the one taken by organization representing the province’s bishops, which has said it’s fine with the cross being removed from above the Speaker’s chair.

Critics of the PQ have noted the inconsistency in its approach to “values,” with insisting on secular clothing for state employees but allowing a large crucifix present where laws are made.

There is one common theme between those two positions: polls have suggested both ideas are relatively popular.

However, other polls have suggested that support for the PQ plan has its limits. One placed the religion debate low on voters’ priority list; another suggested a strong majority of Quebecers would rather not fire someone over religious headwear.

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