In her first broadcast interview in English in the 2012 campaign, Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois spoke to Daybreak host Mike Finnerty about Quebec's anglophone population, her plans to expand Bill 101 and the rationale behind her party's proposed secular charter.
Here are highlights from the interview:
What is the central issue in this election for Quebecers?
First of all, that it is integrity, I think. We have major problems with the actual government, with Charest’s government, that he didn’t decide to resolve the problem or act on this issue. They decided to have an inquiry commission only after two years and a half of demand on the part of the population. So, I think it is a major issue.
The other one is to have real answer to the problems of the population of Quebec. Old people have many great problems – they don’t have access to services at home. The family doesn’t have access to daycare centres. There are major problems at the emergency [rooms] in hospitals. It is important to present real solutions to the population of Quebec.
Would you see it as part of your role as premier to protect the minority Anglophone community?
The anglophones are Quebecers, as are the French, as are the new Quebecers. For me it’s a major issue. In the past, the English community knows, I respected the English community. I gave the complete leadership on the school boards when I was minister of education. [As] minister of health and services, we protect[ed] the accessibility of the English community to health [and] social services.
For me, it’s absolutely fundamental. We will continue in the same perspective we have in the past. We will defend minority rights. You know, I would like to ask to the other parts of Canada to respect the minority of the French Canadians. So, for me, it’s absolutely necessary to do that.
The proportion of Anglophones in Quebec has been decreasing in the last 15 years. The number of Allophones speaking French both at home and in public is going up. Why is the PQ proposing to limit access to English CEGEPs and apply the Bill 101 eligibility rules?
You know, now there is always half of the new Quebecers who are going to the English CEGEP. After that, often they are going to work in English. So for us, that is so important. We are a real minority in North America. Two per cent of the population are French speaking. We have to protect this reality. That is why we decided to implement the [Bill] 101 in the CEGEPs. We will help the anglophone [CEGEPs] to continue to have the possibility to receive some Francophones to learn English if they want, but only for English [courses].
We will work with the anglophone CEGEPs and I think we will be able to have a solution to apply to make this change. We will not do this change on one year. We will do this change on a mid-term period.
If you win on Sept. 4, will you see yourself as having a mandate to call a referendum in your first term in office?
No. But if I want to do a referendum, I will have the possibility to hold one.… So if it is possible for us to convince the majority of the population to vote yes for a referendum, it will be possible for a referendum.… We could do it, but also it could be possible to not hold one.
Your proposal for a secular charter has a lot of people talking. How can a modern, diverse, free and open society like ours say to the citizenry you cannot wear outwardly religious symbols if you are working in the public system?
I think it is important for the government to be neutral. There are many people from different religions. That is respect for all these religions to say to these people when you will work for the government, you will be neutral.
It’s for the respect of many different religions, so the state [does] not to have one religion.… The [crucifix in the National Assembly] is a part of our history and we don’t have to renounce our history. It is why I accept the crucifix in our National Assembly.