Quebec election not about a referendum: Marois

PQ leader Pauline Marois, flanked by candidates Pierre Karl Peladeau, left, and Bernard Drainville reponds to a question during a news conference Friday, March 21, 2014 in Longueuil, Que. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois rejected suggestions Friday her referendum position is confusing.

Any independence referendum will be held only when Quebecers are ready, Marois told a news conference.

“There is no confusion,” she said. “The issue of this election is not a referendum. The issue of this election is the choice of a government to lead Quebec.”

READ MOREA separated Quebec would ditch Canada, keep its currency: Marois

“We will not push Quebecers to take this decision. We will take the time. And when it is time, we will propose something if we are ready and Quebecers are ready.”

That’s exactly what the PQ leader said repeatedly during the televised leaders’ debate Thursday night.

Watch: Catch up on all the debate analysis 

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After the debate, however, Marois left the door open to a plebiscite in the next four years if the PQ wins a majority government April 7 and she considers Quebecers to be referendum-ready.

Meanwhile, the PQ attempted to shift the focus once again away from sovereignty to the party’s proposed secular charter and its economic team.

Marois was accompanied Friday by star candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau and the lead minister on the charter file, Bernard Drainville.

Peladeau, the media mogul whose splashy entrance into the campaign and commitment to create a country for his children caused a stir, refused to discuss sovereignty. He repeated that the Quebec economy was why he took the political plunge.

“If I had directed Quebecor as the Liberals led Quebec, I would have lost my business and I would have been replaced,” said Peladeau.

The owner of media and telecom giant Quebecor also said his political donations over the years were not indicative of his political leanings. Donation records show Peladeau donated extensively to the Liberals over the past decade – and actually gave them more than he did to the PQ.

A screenshot from the website of the Directeur général des élections du Québec, showing Karl Pierre Peladeau’s donations. Directeur général des élections du Québec

He also contributed financially to the now defunct Action democratique du Quebec.

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Peladeau was asked why he gave to the Liberals – a party he now calls unethical.

“I always believe in democracy,” Peladeau replied. “I think this is the strongest thing for this country, and political parties are a part of this democracy so it was no problem for me to donate to all parties in Quebec.”

Peladeau noted he has long supported the PQ and added he voted Yes in the 1980 referendum. He did not say whether he went Yes or No in 1995.

Drainville, meanwhile, made yet another case for the PQ’s secular charter, which would forbid state employees from wearing certain religious garb. The minister has said over and over in recent days that the only way to save the charter is with a majority PQ government.

On Friday, Drainville was asked if any common ground could be found with the Liberals on the issue.

“There’s room for consensus if the Liberals agree with us,” Drainville replied dryly.

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