Couillard talks Anglos, MUHC mergers and separatism

In an interview with CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Premier Philippe Couillard highlighted his federalist stance, saying he wants to put Quebec "back at the centre of Canada."

Quebec premier speaks about wanting a closer relationship with Canada and why he backs Bombardier

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said 'it is normal to recognize importance of the English-speaking community —it doesn't take anything away from francophones.' (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

With the next provincial election just over a year away, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard is reaching out to the province's English-speaking community and seeking to reassure Montrealers that he won't force a merger at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

In an interview with CBC Montreal Daybreak host Mike Finnerty Thursday, the premier highlighted his federalist stance, saying he wants to put Quebec "back at the centre of Canada."

Couillard also acknowledged he faces low approval rates with a year away from the next Quebec election, but said one thing he isn't worried about is a revival of the sovereignty movement. 

Here are excerpts from that interview, which has been edited and condensed for clarity.

On health care in the Anglo community

I want to say unequivocally that I care deeply for the English-speaking community of Quebec. It's part of my Quebec, it's part of our Quebec. What the province is today is in large part due to the work the English-speaking community has done through the years — the universities, the colleges, the hospitals.

We hear the concerns; there's no question of mergers at the MUHC. If it happens, it will not come from us. Frankly I have many, many, many other priorities than mergers of hospitals. But I think there is a need for stronger leadership and management at the MUHC.

On Trudeau and the Constitution

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says he wants to keep a 'good working relationship' with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

A thing I want to do is keep a very good working relationship with Justin Trudeau. But it's my duty as Quebec premier to talk about this as a federalist and this is a very federalist document — it's about how I see Quebec in Canada.

There's not a single sentence in the 200 pages that is asking for constitutional changes. But what we say in it is that we've been drifting apart.

Let's get closer together; let's put Quebec back at the centre of Canada.

On systemic racism

As far as integrating newcomers to the workforce, we are making progress. Not fast enough, but we just passed a law that deals with professional corporations in order to make them much, much more active to look at people's competencies and recognize them.

On sovereignty

You know and I know that there will be no majority of Quebecers that would forego their Canadian citizenship. Why would they do this? They will not do it. It does not make sense. The Parti Québécois and other separatist parties just cannot face the historical failure of their option.

It's normal to recognize importance of the English-speaking community —it doesn't take anything away from francophones. It's just a statement of fact and appreciation. What some people in the separatist community think about that, frankly, I don't care.​

On Bombardier raises

I wasn't happy at all, but at the end of the day we have to be very, very careful not to damage what we are working so hard to protect. There's the aerospace industry in Quebec, which is 40,000 jobs in the Montreal area and it's centred on Bombardier. 

On running for re-election

It's hard for governments today to win people's satisfaction. The only thing we can do is work hard as we've been doing since day one.

I think the record is good. But you don't only campaign on the record. You campaign on a new project, and this is what we are putting together as we speak. 

With files from CBC's Montreal's Daybreak