Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has outlined her party's priorities as the Parti Québécois heads into its first mandate as the province's governing party.
Marois, the first female premier in Quebec's history, told the Quebec national assembly on Wednesday her party will aim to focus on four priorities: ending corruption, strengthening the province's economy, establishing solidarity and promoting a national identity.
"Rest assured that we will receive the opposition's constructive propositions with an open mind. We must seek a way to advance the province and build a Quebec with more integrity, more prosperous, with more solidarity and proud of its identity," said Marois.
Marois's first point was to focus the PQ's efforts on weeding out corruption from municipal and provincial governments.
The continuing inquiry into corruption in Quebec's construction industry has brought up allegations of collusion between construction companies and politicians receiving kickbacks.
Municipal elected officials will be invited to discuss with the Quebec government and find ways to limit mayoral mandates to three-year terms instead of four in cities with populations of more than 5,000 people.
In an effort to control the handling of public contracts, the PQ will table Bill 1 Thursday, a bill that will force businesses that seek public contracts to have their integrity checked before winning new projects.
She said the PQ will push to have the bill adopted before the holiday season.
Marois said her government will also be looking into ways to remove municipal politicians from their posts if they are involved in criminal affairs.
Before the address, Minister for Democratic Institutions Bernard Drainville said anti-corruption legislation will be the centrepiece of the PQ's plans, despite electoral promises to focus on language and culture.
A push against Ottawa
Marois said her minority government would stand firm before the Harper government and seek sovereignty status for the province.
"As you know, we are a sovereigntist government," said Marois. "We consider Quebec has everything to gain by becoming a country. This is true on a judicial standpoint, where our belonging to Canada brings with it a Constitution that Quebec has never signed. This limits our capacity to define our own language laws, our telecommunication plans, our citizenship and even our criminal laws."
She added Quebec had nothing to lose in controlling its own tax system. She said Quebec income taxes helped fund Ontario's automobile industry and the shipyards in Nova Scotia but that "[Quebec's] forestry industry and manufacturing sector are ignored by Ottawa."
Before concluding her speech, Marois said the province could save money by eliminating administrative fees imposed by the federal government.
"Quebec gains nothing by financing two transport ministers, environment ministers, finance, revenue agencies, treasury councils or two Parliaments and a Senate," she said.
Opposition says Marois is 'confused'
François Legault, leader of Coalition Avenir Québec, said Marois's party was "confused about the state of the province's public finances."
The opposition leader also criticized Marois's plans for Montreal.
In her address, Marois said the PQ would work to improve public transport in Montreal, improve the employment status, reinforce identity and keep young families on in the city.
"Have you heard about Montreal and Laval?" said Legault. "She mentioned Montreal saying that she will try to boost the economy but nothing about the management of the town of Montreal. Nothing regarding Laval. Is she living on another planet?
Amir Khadir and Françoise David, spokespeople for sovereigntist party Québec Solidaire, said the PQ failed to present plans to increase taxes on people with higher incomes — a promise the PQ made during its election campaign.
Finally, Jean-Marc Fournier, the provincial Liberal's interim leader, grilled Marois for "improvising" financial plans. He blamed Marois for being unclear about presenting a provincial budget.
"She had nothing to say about public finances," said Fournier. "The minimum would have been for her to tell us she had an idea on the topic."
"It's a government of summits, of meetings, of commissions. Evidently, it proposes arguments with Ottawa — you know what I think about that — and proposes to give us a new French-language charter … seems like Mrs. Marois wants to start a language battle."