Trudeau Takes Positions on Provincial Issues during Quebec Visit

By Blatchford, Andy | The Canadian Press, February 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Trudeau Takes Positions on Provincial Issues during Quebec Visit


Blatchford, Andy, The Canadian Press


Trudeau takes line on provincial issues in Quebec

--

MONTREAL - Liberal leadership favourite Justin Trudeau waded Tuesday into two areas of provincial policy, at one point even taking shots at the Parti Quebecois government, while visiting Quebec.

Trudeau offered his opinions on Quebec language legislation and on tuition fees, while also reiterating his promise to increase federal involvement in education.

He delivered speeches and answered student questions at three schools on Tuesday, two of them English institutions and one French.

The crowds were similarly large at every stop -- but the level of warmth of the reception varied from one official language to the next.

At the English-language Dawson College students asked him to sign autographs and pose for photos after the event. At the French-language Universite de Montreal later in the day, he was grilled on the Constitution and one student approached him afterward to debate the subject.

His first stop of the day took him to his alma mater, McGill University, where he offered indications that a Trudeau prime ministership would be a marked departure from a Harper era defined by a hands-off approach to provincial issues.

Trudeau said the federal government should play a bigger role in education -- as long as it respects provincial jurisdiction.

"We need to be the best-educated country in the world," Trudeau said, describing his goal to increase post-secondary enrolment from 50 to 70 per cent.

"That's a position that Mr. Harper certainly won't take because he doesn't particularly believe in national leadership, and secondly, (NDP Leader Tom) Mulcair certainly wouldn't take it because he's so worried about his nationalistic base in Quebec to feel that talking about education is something that the federal government can do -- but it is."

"We have to do it in a way that respects provincial jurisdiction, but we need to understand that education will be the single-most important thing to get right in the coming years."

He also weighed in on two Quebec political issues that have made headlines in recent days.

Trudeau said he thinks the Parti Quebecois' plan to tighten language laws goes too far. At Dawson, he even teased the government over an ongoing internal spat in which party figures are divided over whether Montreal's metro system should offer guaranteed bilingual service.

"I came out in the fall in Quebec City against any strengthening of Quebec's language laws. I don't think it's necessary," he said.

"I don't think it's helpful and, actually, you can see the extent to which the approach that this government has is very much based around electoral concerns and the idea of drumming up controversy rather than anything else."

He continued by saying it makes little sense that, on the one hand, the PQ's Bill 14 would reduce access to English services while, on the other, the party is talking about making the metro more English -- much to the dismay of former premier and PQ icon Jacques Parizeau. …

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