French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault arrives in Ottawa today to begin four-city visit

OTTAWA – The Prime Minister of France, Jean-Marc Ayrault, arrives in Ottawa this afternoon to begin a four-city official visit to Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will welcome his French counterpart just before 4 p.m. ET on Parliament Hill.

The two leaders will then discuss Franco-Canadian economic ties and efforts to forge a free trade pact between the European Union and Canada.

Ayrault will meet in Toronto on Thursday with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne before heading to Montreal that evening.

Then it’s off to Quebec City and talks with Premier Pauline Marois, who met with Ayrault and French President Francois Hollande in Paris last October.

Marois had told a radio network in the French capital that a referendum on sovereignty in Quebec is hardly conceivable right now.

Marois also stressed that Quebec would continue to defend its interests.

For his part, Hollande told Marois during their talks that France would return to its traditionally neutral policy on Quebec independence.