Quebec is pulling out of an intergovernmental working group on health set up by the Council of the Federations, saying it intends to concentrate on its own priorities.
The decision, which was made public on Monday, was announced in a letter dated Jan. 11 and signed by Health Minister Réjean Hébert and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier.
The working group was set up in January 2012 to look at improving how health-care services are delivered and how to better manage resources.
News of the withdrawal came as Cloutier testified Monday at a committee looking at spending estimates.
He came under fire from critics from the provincial Liberals and Coalition Avenir Québec parties, who said it is contradictory for him to hold the dual portfolios of intergovernmental affairs and minister of sovereigntist governance.
"The minister of intergovernmental affairs is mandated to ensure the proper functioning of the federation and Quebec within the federation," said CAQ spokesman Éric Caire. "I would think that the mandate of the minister of sovereigntist governance would be the contrary."
Both Caire and Liberal Pierre Moreau said they were worried that Premier Pauline Marois would use public money to promote sovereignty although Cloutier said that so far no taxpayer dollars had been used.
Cloutier also said his two jobs are perfectly compatible.
Cloutier said the Parti Québécois minority government has no plans to hold a referendum on sovereignty.
"That does not mean that we will sit with our arms folded," he said. "This does not mean that we will not do anything."