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Opposition leaders say Quebec election no victory for Harper

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:45 p.m. March 27, 2007]

OTTAWA  — The three opposition leaders said Tuesday that it would be unwise for the Conservative government to view Monday's Quebec election results as a victory for themselves. 
 
Quebec Premier Jean Charest and the Liberals lost their majority government despite the federal government announcing in the home stretch of the campaign billions in new transfers to the province to take care of the fiscal imbalance. 

The Liberals won 48 seats, the ADQ won 41 seats and the Parti Quebecois won 36 seats.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said before question period Tuesday that the results were "good news" primarily because the separatist Parti Quebecois placed third. 

"Obviously we're very encouraged to see we have a government in Quebec that is opposed to having another referendum, we have now an official opposition that's opposed to having another referendum. It's the first time in almost four decades that we've seen a situation like this."

While the opposition ADQ does not want a referendum, its party leader, Mario Dumont, is not a federalist but a self-declared "autonomist," who wants greater powers for Quebec within Confederation. 
 
To get legislation through the National Assembly, Charest will now need the cooperation of the autonomist ADQ or the separatist PQ. 

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, who said he will take Dumont at his word that he does not want a referendum and wants to work within Canada, said the real problem is the prime minister's lack of clarity on what he means when he speaks about open federalism for Quebec. 

"Never he said which power, which jurisdiction he wants to withdraw from the federal government," Dion said at a press conference in Ottawa. "He must be clear."

Dion accused the prime minister of already "tarnishing" federalism to win votes in Quebec. 

"I think it's time to have a prime minister who is making the case for Canada in Quebec saying that we have a great country," he said. "It's not true that it's domineering that it is unfair that we need to elect Stephen Harper to fix that." 

"This is a game we should stop to play. We should be able to say that nothing justifies separation in Canada, nothing in Quebec, nothing elsewhere."

Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe also warned Canadians not to read too much into PQ's third-place finish. 

"The federalist leaders have to be very careful," he said at a press conference on Parliament Hill. "A lot of times in the past they said, 'Sovereignty is dead.' Every six months the Bloc is gone forever. So I'm used to that." 

NDP Leader Jack Layton also disagreed with a national newspaper headline that declared "Harper's Quebec gamble pays off."

"Well, I think that would be an over simplified early reaction to what has taken place," Layton said. 

Layton credited the growth in support for the ADQ as a protest vote. 

"There's a change going on in Québec politics and I think many Quebecers came forward and simply said we feel left out of the political process,'" he said.

: Related Links

> Liberal minority in Quebec

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