Montreal

PQ leader to put sovereignty on backburner

Everyday Quebec life, not referendums, will dominate the Parti Quebecois's priorities, party leader Pauline Marois said Tuesday, the day after winning a seat in the National Assembly.

Everyday Quebec life, not talk of referendums, will dominate the Parti Québécois's priorities, party leader Pauline Marois said Tuesday, the day after she handily defeated the Action Démocratique candidate to secure a seat in Quebec's National Assembly.

"I don't really want to change the Parti Québécois, but I want to change some aspects of the Parti Québécois, and first I want to put aside the project of the referendum because I think we have to talk about the country … [and] the life of the citizens," she said at anews conference, one day after her byelection win in the riding of Charlevoix, northeast of Quebec City.

While Marois said that did not mean the PQ would keep the sovereignty issue on the backburner indefinitely, she repeated that she wanted to focus for the time being on governing the province. Winning the support of Quebecers must come before deciding on thedetails of any referendum to build an independent country, she said.

Liberals did not run candidate

"In June, I said to my party that if you do choose my leadership, I will put aside the discussion about the referendum, but I will not put aside the project of sovereignty and the big project of solidarity for Quebecers," she told reporters in Baie-St-Paul, east of Quebec City, on Tuesday.

"This great party, I think, accepted my proposal."

Maroisromped to victory on Monday, winning nearly 60 per cent of the popular vote to easily beat Conrad Harvey, who was representing the Action Démocratique du Québec. Harvey garnered 37 per cent of the vote.

The Liberals did not field a candidate in the byelection,which saw Marois become the first elected female party leader in the province's history.

Marois made it clear she did not owe any favours to the Liberals when a journalist asked her to comment on reports that Liberal Premier Jean Charest wanted her to be elected and that the Liberals had, in a way, facilitated her win. Marois's victory means the Liberals will not have to face the ADQ alone in the legislature.

"I certainly have no debt toward Mr. Charest, I have no debt to him whatsoever, and it will not change our attitudes toward the national assembly," Marois said.

Premier offers congratulations

Charest offered his congratulations to Marois as he headed into a conference on blue-green algae in St-Adèle Tuesday.

He noted that Marois is the sixth PQ leader to head the party since he took over the Quebec Liberals in 1998, if interim leaders Louise Harel and François Gendron are included in the count.

The PQ may change leaders but the party itself "does not change," the premier said in French while answering reporters' questions.

He welcomed Marois to the national assembly and said she'll be a formidablefoe given her political experience.

PQ encouraged by Marois' victory and ADQ's defeat

The PQ's top brass said their leader's decisive victory in Monday's byelection bodes well for the party, which has been dogged by the ADQ's rising popularity in Quebec city's outlying regions.

Marois' solid win is a sign of what's to come for the PQ in the next provincial election, said the party's finance critic Francois Legault.

"Mrs. Marois beat the ADQ, and Mr. Dumont. And that's good," he told CBC News. "It's like a preliminary match for, eventually, the real match, which is the next general election."

The PQ was pummelled in Quebec's March 2007 election, when it relinquished dozens of seats to the ADQ, and was reduced to third-party status at the national assembly.