06/25/2012 10:33 EDT | Updated 08/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Harper Tories ready to work with any Quebec government

The Harper government is trying to downplay its struggles in Quebec.

The federal Conservatives say they have shared interests with the province and will work with whatever political party is in power there — even the separatist Parti Québécois, should the PQ win the next provincial election.

Christian Paradis, Harper's Quebec lieutenant, issued that proclamation yesterday at a gathering near Quebec City where he joined the prime minister in marking Quebec's Fête nationale holiday.

Harper's chilled relationship with Quebec has been under increased scrutiny since the Canadian Press revealed his recent secret meetings in Montreal with former prime minister Brian Mulroney and Liberal Premier Jean Charest.

Harper sought their advice on the national unity issue — which some fear could rise again should the Parti Québécois unseat Charest's unpopular Liberals.

The Conservatives won just five of Quebec's 75 federal seats in the last election, putting them in a weak position to lead any renewed unity debate.