Philippe Couillard pledges transparency, integrity
Quebec Liberal leader and premier-designate says he will ask auditor general to look at books
Quebec Liberal Party Leader Philippe Couillard pledged that his government would be the most transparent the province has ever seen during a news conference Tuesday, following his party's decisive win in last night's election.
The Liberals will have a majority government, after winning 70 of 125 seats in the National Assembly.
The Parti Québécois won 30 seats, the Coalition Avenir Québec won 22 and Québec Solidaire won three.
Couillard said transparency and integrity would be central concerns of his government.
"My interest is to give Quebec the most transparent government that Quebec has ever seen," he said. "We need to re-establish the confidence of Quebecers in their government."
Couillard committed his government to proactive disclosure on a number of issues, including public works and expense accounts.
He pointed to the Charbonneau commission that is looking into corruption in the province's construction industry as a case in point.
"The political class is under scrutiny," he said. "There will be no compromising on my part on the essential question of integrity."
Couillard pledged to open the province's books to a thorough independent inspection by the auditor general in order to establish the true scope of Quebec's deficit.
"We know there's a hole, what we need to know is the size of that hole, we need to know the real deficit when we're drafting a budget," he said.
Saying he would not let his government become "arrogant" as a result of its majority, Couillard pledged to work with all parties on issues that matter to Quebecers. Among the issues he mentioned were job creation initiatives and end-of-life legislation.
Seeks quick end to secularism debate
On the issue of religious accommodation, notably the Parti Québécois's controversial secular charter, Couillard said it's important that it be resolved as quickly as possible.
"We have to put the accommodation question behind us," he said.
Couillard said his government would seek a consensus position on secularism. However, any legislation introduced would not restrict the wearing of religious symbols by public service employees.
"We're not going to do anything that goes even close to job discrimination," he said.
Couillard said the tone of the election, which was considered one of the nastiest in recent history, cannot define future relations between Quebec's political parties.
"We don't need to go in that direction," he said.
'Tectonic' shift in Quebec politics
When asked for his assessment of the sovereignty movement in Quebec, Couillard said it was far from dead.
However, he pointed to his party's majority victory in Monday's election and his own election in Roberval in Eastern Quebec as evidence of a "tectonic shift" away from the idea of independence.
"Ideas don't die. The question is what capacity does that idea have for mobilizing the public and forming a government. That's up to the Parti Québécois to assess," he said.
Couillard pledged to re-assert Quebec's unique character and the province's leadership role within Confederation.
"We were one of the founder's of Canada and we have to remind Canada of Quebec's specific character and how it's part of the very fibre of Canada," he said.
Couillard said he has put in place a transition committee that will be overseen by Daniel Johnson, the former Liberal premier.
The Liberals entered this election campaign as the Official Opposition, but battled back from a public backlash and integrity questions that saw the province elect its first PQ minority government in the fall of 2012.