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Quebec already has power to be an international player: Charest

 

KEVIN DOUGHERTY, The Gazette

Published: 9 hours ago

 

Canadian federalism already allows Quebec to negotiate international agreements on its own, Premier Jean Charest said yesterday, commenting on a federal minister's declaration that Ottawa would give provinces more power to act on the international stage.

 

Charest said Quebec needs to play an active international role to thrive in the global economy.

 

"I see it as an occasion for the emancipation of Quebec," he said of the province's international relations.

 

Charest called Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's declaration, on the eve of a federal Conservative caucus meeting in Quebec this week, "a positive signal." But as things stand, Charest added, Quebec has more powers to make international agreements on its own than France has as a member of the European Union.

 

Quebec's position is that "what is in Quebec's jurisdiction at home is in Quebec's jurisdiction everywhere," he said.

 

The Canadian constitution gives Quebec jurisdiction over education, health, language and culture. The proposed agreement between France and Quebec on mutual recognition of professional qualifications is within Quebec's powers.

 

"We have the powers to do that," he said. "In fact, when I proposed the project to President Sarkozy, I think it was about a year ago when I did it, I didn't call Ottawa to ask them permission to do it.

 

"I proposed it. We did it and we started negotiating." Some consider Cannon's statement a betrayal of a more centralized vision of Canadian federalism.

 

"There will always be these people in English Canada and elsewhere, even in Quebec, who fear the future of the federation if we ever question their way of exercising federalism," Charest said.

 

"The Canadian federal system is a very decentralized system, by choice," he said. "It is not an accident of history that we have a decentralized federal system. It is one of the conditions that permitted the creation of the country."

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