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Quebec nationalists should beware of Liberals, Greens and NDP, Legault says

Quebec Premier François Legault had harsh words for the federal Liberals, NDP and Greens following Wednesday's French-language leaders' debate, and is urging nationalists in the province to be wary of those parties as they weigh their options ahead of the upcoming election.

Premier wants next federal government to give Quebec more autonomy

Quebec Premier François Legault levied heavy criticism against the federal Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party during a news conference on Thursday. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Quebec Premier François Legault had harsh words for the federal Liberals, NDP and Greens following Wednesday's French-language leaders' debate, and is urging nationalists in the province to be wary of those parties as they weigh their options ahead of the upcoming election.

Speaking with reporters in Quebec City on Thursday, Legault said the stances of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul on health and immigration matters are "worrisome" for Quebec.

Legault was methodical, praising the federal leaders' stances that align with his government's key policies and criticizing those that do not — and concluded that a minority government was the ideal result for him.

"Listen, in the current context, given that no party is addressing all of our needs, I think we're obliged to say that for the Quebec nation, that would be best," he said in response to a journalist asking about a minority outcome.

Although he insisted that he does not want to tell Quebecers who to vote for on Sept. 20, the Coalition Avenir Québec premier all but said that a Conservative-led government would be better for the province.

"What I'm saying is Quebecers who are nationalists, that want the Quebec nation to have more power, have to beware of three parties — the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party," Legault said.

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Legault was visibly irked by those parties' intentions to intervene in health-care matters, which are under provincial jurisdiction.

He said managing a provincial health network "is complex enough" without Ottawa attaching conditions to health transfers to the provinces.

"The Quebec nation wants more autonomy, not less autonomy," he said. 

Legault praised Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole for his commitment to increase transfers by $60 billion over the next ten years with no strings attached — even if, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, very little of that money would be given to provinces in the next five years — and for his refusal to get involved in any constitutional challenge of the province's controversial religious symbols law.

During the first French-language debate, Trudeau reiterated his stance from the last campaign, saying he wouldn't rule out involvement from the federal government in such a challenge.

O'Toole didn't completely escape criticism from Legault, however.

His plan to scrap the Liberals' intention to transfer $6 billion over five years to fund Quebec's child-care system and instead introduce a tax credit to help parents pay for daycare didn't go over well with the Quebec premier. 

"I think Mr. O'Toole needs to explain himself," Legault said.

During his brief exchange with reporters on Thursday, Legault barely mentioned Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet. 

Wednesday's event was the second and last French-language debate of the federal election campaign. The party leaders will square off again tonight, this time in English.

With files from Cathy Senay

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