Pauline Marois attracts U.S. investors to Quebec
PQ will introduce sovereignty referendum if they have popular support
As her three-day visit to New York comes to an end, Premier Pauline Marois is saying that some companies have decided to invest in Quebec, although she said it was too soon to name which ones.
Marois travelled to New York state last week to court potential investors and attract business opportunities.
During her visit, the premier worked to establish her government's credibility with the United State's business community.
"I explain first of all, we will be responsible as a government," Marois said.
In a speech to the Foreign Policy Association, Marois said she wants to deepen economic ties with the U.S., in particular New York State.
She said she was keen on developing trade with the U.S., which receives 70 per cent of the province's exports.
Quebec sovereignty would not change the borders or the province's relationship with the United States, she told her audience of about 300 business people, who paid $150 each to hear her.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Marois did not shy away from sovereignty issues, despite the lack of support for separation in the National Assembly.
Marois' Parti Québécois has a slim minority government.
"I say yes, we are sovereigntists … and we want to explain this project and to convince the population of Quebec," Marois said. But an eventual move in that direction would be open and democratic, and would not come as a surprise, she added.
"We will not hide it. We will have a debate, we will discuss that and we will do a referendum if we think the population will agree with more than 50 percent of the vote," Marois said.
But the PQ starts off with two strikes against it when it travels to the United States, said Pierre Martin, a political science professor at the Université de Montréal.
"They are, after all, the party of the left, and there is the perception that they can't be fiscally responsible," Martin said, adding that Marois was criticized for enacting policies that were too austere during a brief stint as finance minister about 10 years ago.
"The other strike is that their raison d'être is to make Quebec a sovereign country. So they have to reassure the rest of the world this is not a statement of revolution … that they value free trade," he added.
To help sweeten the pot for investors, the PQ government is offering 10 years-worth of tax holidays to companies that invest $300 million or more in projects in Quebec.
Marois' visit ended Friday evening, but she said that she planned on spending today shopping in New York City. The premier's check-list also included eating a New York pretzel from one of the city's iconic food carts.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press