Quebec Liberal leader wants Constitution signed by 2017

Philippe Couillard, the newly elected Quebec Liberal party leader, says Quebec's lack of signature on the Canadian Constitution is unacceptable.

Newly elected Philippe Couillard says province needs to reflect on its identity

Newly-elected Quebec Liberal leader, Philippe Couillard, says it's unacceptable that Quebec's signature is not on the Canadian constitution. (CBC)

Philippe Couillard, the newly elected Quebec Liberal party leader, says Quebec’s lack of signature on the Canadian Constitution is unacceptable.

In his first formal address as party leader, Couillard said he hopes Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s desire to reform the senate could open a window for wider reforms.

He said he wants Quebec to sign the Constitution by 2017, which marks 150 years since Canada's Confederation.

Couillard also acknowledged there needs to be a broad social discussion in the province about what defines its identity.

On a provincial level, Couillard said the party will continue to work toward defeating the Parti Québecois government's controversial Bill 14, which would effectively strengthen French language laws within the province.

Couillard said the province has had enough coercive measures over the decades to make people speak French, and they've worked well.

"Now it's time to move from coercion, to encouragement," he said. 

The bill's provisions, which set stricter rules on using French in businesses and make it easier to impose a French-only status on municipalities, take exactly the wrong approach, he said.

"I'm not really sure we'll protect the French language that way." 

The bill will face several challenges, especially with the PQ sitting as a minority government. Even before they had a new leader, the Liberals were opposed to it, and the Coalition party also wants to see its key provisions gutted. 

Quebec facing a crisis of confidence

Over the weekend, Couillard won the three-way race for the provincial Liberal leadership with 58.5 per cent of the vote. 

Couillard told the convention that he wants to lead the most open government the province has ever seen.

He said Quebec is having a crisis of confidence that can only be solved through transparency.

On Monday, Couillard also highlighted a need for change within his own party as it prepares for the next election. 

"If we mobilize supporters, if we can gather them behind the development of the party and the creation of ideas, it’s certain …we will instill a new energy that will help prepare for the next election," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press