QUEBEC - The new Parti Quebecois government appears set to weather the criticism of its inaugural speech and sail through its first confidence test.
The new minority government was criticized over what the federal government viewed as an unnecessarily aggressive tone in its address to open the legislature.
And the provincial opposition parties have said they will vote against the speech — which is a confidence matter. However they made it clear Thursday, one day after it was delivered, that they would not turn out in sufficient numbers to trigger the government's collapse.
"We're not going to defeat the government on a speech," said Coalition party Leader Francois Legault.
He warned, however, that the upcoming budget had better not include tax hikes or he would vote against it. The PQ is expected to table a budget this fall, taking advantage of the fact that the Opposition Liberals are leaderless and in no position to cause an election.
Legault wasn't the only one who was unimpressed with Marois' inaugural address.
Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis called the speech "vindictive" and said it had a divisive tone.
In the speech, Marois said she intended to create a Quebec gun registry, wanted control over federal cultural spending in the province, and sought better health-care transfer payments. She also criticized federal support of the auto industry in Ontario while Quebec's forestry industry was struggling.
Paradis said in Ottawa that Marois' speech suggested she's not really interested in a federal-provincial dialogue.
"I'm sorry, but I think her tone is ... vindictive. It's unfortunate. I hope there will be a change in tone."
He said any repatriation of cultural funding is a non-starter but added he is willing to work with Marois' government and liked its' commitment to exploit the potential of the province's oil.
Paradis noted, however, it is clear Marois is running "a sovereigntist government."
The provincial opposition parties have butted heads with the new government on a number of issues — notably fiscal ones.
The PQ appears to have refocused its efforts and will make a popular cause — fighting corruption — its top priority of the fall session.
The PQ is introducing tough new anti-corruption measures in its first piece of legislation, Bill 1, and will subject companies to increased scrutiny if they want public contracts.
The government would entrust Quebec's securities regulator to verify the integrity of companies vying for any provincial and municipal contracts and require bidders to have a certificate proving they are clean.
Treasury Board President Stephane Bedard said the financial markets watchdog, known as the AMF, is best equipped to audit firms and hand out certificates to those in good standing.
The AMF said Thursday that it was preparing to take on the new challenge. It said it was confident that it could handle the challenge and that it would likely receive the additional means required to create a new unit dedicated to the task.
Bedard said the AMF could refuse or revoke certificates if the public trust could be affected by a company's lack of integrity.
The in-depth screening would include a look at partners, directors, officers and anyone who directly or indirectly controls the company under the law.
Quebec's anti-corruption unit would also keep tabs on companies to ensure they continue to comply with the rules.
Marois said during her inaugural speech on Wednesday that her first weeks in office will be dedicated to fighting corruption, in the wake of political scandals that have rocked the province.
She said she will not wait for an ongoing inquiry to offer its conclusions and will act immediately on the anti-corruption front.
The PQ has said it hopes to pass Bill 1 before Christmas.
The tabling of the bill on Nov. 1 had a special significance for the PQ: it was the 25th anniversary of the death of party icon Rene Levesque, who as premier brought in measures to tighten political party financing.
"I am very honoured to table Bill 1 on integrity in the matter of public contracts by our government on this day when we commemorate the death of Rene Levesque," Bedard said.
The PQ promises to work on a series of other clean-government measures in the coming weeks, like fixed election dates, term limits for premiers and mayors, and political donation limits. It is downplaying the divisive identity-and-independence issues that dominated the recent election.
One thing it has not done is persuaded opposition parties that it has found the necessary money to pay for its election promises.