Quebec’s Marois Rules Out Referendum Without Majority

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, whose party advocates seceding from Canada, ruled out calling a referendum on sovereignty for as long as she lacks a majority in the provincial legislature.

Marois, 63, led the Parti Quebecois to a minority mandate in the Sept. 4 provincial election, capturing 54 of 125 seats in Quebec’s National Assembly. With parties opposing separation controlling a majority of seats, Marois explicitly ruled out holding another vote on separation before another election.

“I am at the head of a minority government and for sure, it is not possible for me to hold a referendum,” Marois said yesterday in an English-language interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York.

Quebec, which is predominantly French-speaking, has voted twice against seceding from Canada in referendums -- most recently in 1995, when the “No” vote prevailed by a 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent margin.

Independence is “a very good idea” for Quebec “because we will decide our economic policy, our fiscal policy, our social policy,” said Marois, who became head of the Parti Quebecois in 2007.

Still, “we will not do sovereignty if the people don’t want to,” Marois said. “That will be a democratic decision. That will not be a surprise for the population or for the investors.”

The independence issue has lost momentum in recent years. In the 2011 federal election, the Bloc Quebecois, which advocates separation for Quebec in the national parliament, was reduced to four seats from 49.

10th Issue

According to a poll by Leger Marketing published Aug. 1 by Le Journal de Montreal, Quebec sovereignty was ranked 10th among a list of top issues for voters in the Sept. 4 election. Health care topped the list.

Support for sovereignty depends on the question that pollsters ask, Marois said.

“When you ask the question: ’Do you want sovereignty?’ support is low, 30 percent or so,” she said. “If you ask the question we asked in the referendum -- ‘Do you want to be sovereign, but with an agreement with the rest of Canada’ -- some months we have 45 or 46 percent support.”

Marois concludes a two-day trip to New York today aimed at strengthening economic ties between Canada’s second-most populous province and its southern neighbor. The U.S. takes in about 70 percent of Quebec’s international exports, according to government figures.

The goal of sovereignty “won’t change our geography and the strength of our relationship with our American friends and partners,” Marois said yesterday in a speech to the Foreign Policy Association in New York. “We place the highest value on our relationship with the United States.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Frederic Tomesco in New York at tomesco@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net

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