03/10/2015 02:43 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT

Pierre Karl Peladeau Wants To Make Quebec A 'Richer Country'

MONTREAL - Quebec needs to become independent if it is to truly fulfil its economic potential, Pierre Karl Peladeau said Tuesday.

"I want to make Quebec a country but especially to make Quebec a richer country," the front-runner in the Parti Quebecois leadership race told reporters.

"In the current federal system, it is limited in its capacity to create collective wealth."

Peladeau was asked how a sovereign Quebec would be richer, considering it is scheduled to receive $20 billion in transfer payments from Ottawa for 2015-2016.

He shot back that, "unfortunately," Quebec is still sending a lot of money to Ottawa.

"By having all the money that we're sending there, by making sure that we will put this money working for the economy of Quebec, I'm certainly believing that we'll be able to get this province more richer," he said.

Peladeau announced last month he will wait until the next provincial election in 2018 to decide whether a PQ government would hold a sovereignty referendum in its first term.

In outlining his economic platform, the controlling shareholder of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) said he wants to protect head offices in the province, fight tax evasion and clean up public finances.

Peladeau spoke of the need to promote "economic sovereignty."

"It is crucial to implement a system that favours Quebec businesses," he said. "We need to encourage companies from here. And we have do what it takes to create more of them."

Peladeau also suggested that legislation could be put in place to help keep head offices in Quebec.

Former PQ finance minister Nicolas Marceau, one of Peladeau's supporters, told reporters that could be done by emulating U.S. states that have legislation allowing companies to protect themselves against aggressive bids.

"In other words, to make sure that the Quebec legislation will be on (level) playing fields with other legislation elsewhere in North America," Peladeau added.

His opponents in the leadership race are Pierre Cere, Alexandre Cloutier, Bernard Drainville and Martine Ouellet. The leader will be chosen in May.

They will hold five debates, with the first set for Wednesday in Trois-Rivieres.

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