Marois tells Canada not to fear election outcome

'We will continue to have very good relations with the rest of Canada even if we are sovereigntist'

MONTREAL – Canadians shouldn’t be afraid of the outcome of next month’s Quebec election, Pauline Marois said Friday.

The Parti Quebecois leader said relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada have been good for the past 40 years, regardless of whether her pro-independence party or the federalist Liberals have been in power.

“We will continue to have very good relations with the rest of Canada even if we are sovereigntist,” she told a news conference.

For his part, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said he would work to make sure that Quebec’s distinctiveness is recognized across the country in any constitutional talks.

The last time that was tried was in the late 1980s with the Meech Lake constitutional accord under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney. That deal failed.

Couillard plans to go across the country to press his case to federal, provincial and territorial officials.

“My first message will be about the economy and jobs,” he said during a campaign stop in Val-d’Or. “I will always mention the need that some day the specific character of Quebec will be recognized formally in our Constitution.”

Marois’s relations with star PQ candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau figured as prominently in her day as relations with Canada.

She was asked about a comment she made in a morning radio interview that Peladeau is not her heir apparent as PQ leader.

“I’m not ready to leave my function,” Marois said. “I am at the head of the Parti Quebecois. I’m very proud to be here and I want to be premier of Quebec for the next mandate, so there is no place for another person.”

Marois also took a dig at Bob Rae, telling him to “mind his own business” after she was informed the former federal Liberal leader said a Quebec civil servant or trade unionist voting for the media magnate is “like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.”

Marois tried to reassure Quebec’s union movement, elements of which have criticized the PQ for enlisting Peladeau’s services because of his stormy relations with the labour movement over the years.

“When Mr. Peladeau decided to join my party, he accepted the program of my party,” she said. “My party is respectful of unions. There is no problem with the presence of Mr. Peladeau in my party about this issue.”

In other campaign news, the PQ announced it won’t field a candidate against Fatima Houda-Pepin, a former member of the Liberal caucus now running as an Independent.

The PQ is urging its members to back Houda-Pepin in La Piniere on Montreal’s south shore.

Houda-Pepin, the only Muslim female member of the legislature, was expelled from the Liberal caucus in January over her pro-secularism stance.

A staunchly federalist member of the national assembly since 1994, she is running against Liberal star Gaetan Barrette.