Le­gault would over­ride char­ter

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Que­bec’s next pre­mier and his Coali­tion Avenir Québec party will fo­cus on the na­tion­al­ist iden­tity is­sues that helped to bring it to power, and François Le­gault says he is pre­pared to in­voke the notwith­stand­ing clause to en­sure pub­lic of­fi­cials in author­ity do not wear re­li­gious sym­bols.Le­gault, bol­stered by a stun­ning vic­tory that cost out­go­ing Pre­mier Philippe Couil­lard’s Lib­er­als more than half their seats in the Na­tional Assem­bly, also told re­porters Tues­day he has no in­ten­tion of soft­en­ing his con­tro­ver­sial cam­paign prom­ises to re­duce an­nual im­mi­gra­tion to Que­bec and in­sti­tute lan­guage and val­ues tests.His stance re­ceived ap­proval from Marine Le Pen, pres­i­dent of France’s far-right Na­tional Rally party.Asked about his party’s plans to ex­pel new­com­ers who can­not pass French-lan­guage and val­ues tests three years af­ter their ar­rival, he said: “We want to in­te­grate them and con­tinue to re­ceive them. The im­age of Que­bec (in­ter­na­tion­ally) will de­pend on the ac­tions that we pose, and I want to do things that show that Que­bec is in­clu­sive.”QUE­BEC • Que­bec Pre­mierdes­ig­nate François Le­gault says he is pre­pared to in­voke the notwith­stand­ing clause to en­sure pub­lic of­fi­cials in po­si­tions of author­ity do not wear re­li­gious sym­bols.The day af­ter a mo­men­tous elec­tion vic­tory in which he re-drew Que­bec’s po­lit­i­cal map, Le­gault said he wants to build a “strong Que­bec inside Canada.”But the first pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment since the 1960s to be nei­ther Lib­eral nor Parti Québé­cois will be strongly na­tion­al­ist with a fo­cus on the Que­bec iden­tity is­sues that helped bring it to power.The leader of the Coali­tion Avenir Que­bec told a Que­bec City news con­fer­ence he has no in­ten­tion of soft­en­ing his con­tro­ver­sial cam­paign prom­ises to re­duce an­nual im­mi­gra­tion to Que­bec and in­sti­tute lan­guage and val­ues tests for re­cent ar­rivals.Le­gault said his pro­posed ban on re­li­gious sym­bols for teach­ers, judges and po­lice of­fi­cers is im­por­tant enough to over­ride pro­tec­tions in the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms. The out­go­ing Couil­lard gov­ern­ment’s law pro­hibit­ing of­fi­cials public­sec­tor work­ers from wear­ing face-cov­er­ing gar­ments al­ready faces a le­gal chal­lenge.“I think the vast ma­jor­ity of Que­be­cers, they would like to have a frame­work where we say that peo­ple in author­ity po­si­tions must not wear re­li­gious signs, and if we have to use the notwith­stand­ing clause to ap­ply what the ma­jor­ity of Que­be­cers want, we will do so,” he said.His tough stance re­ceived ap­proval Tues­day from Marine Le Pen, pres­i­dent of France’s far-right Na­tional Rally party (for­merly the Front Na­tional), who called his poli­cies “lu­cid” and “firm.”Le­gault said that start­ing next year, 10,000 fewer im­mi­grants will be ar­riv­ing an­nu­ally in Que­bec, drop­ping from the cur­rent level of 50,000.“At 40,000 im­mi­grants a year, Que­bec will re­ceive more, per capita, than the United States and France,” Le­gault said in de­fence of his pol­icy. “Our ob­jec­tive is to bet­ter in­te­grate them, teach them French, find them a good job and rec­og­nize their diplo­mas.”He was asked about in­ter­na­tional head­lines la­belling his party anti-im­mi­grant be­cause it plans to ex­pel new­com­ers who can­not pass French-lan­guage and val­ues tests three years af­ter their ar­rival.“I want to be unit­ing,” he said. “We want to in­te­grate them and con­tinue to re­ceive them. The im­age of Que­bec (in­ter­na­tion­ally) will de­pend on the ac­tions that we pose, and I want to do things that show that Que­bec is in­clu­sive.”Mon­day’s elec­tion was a blow to the par­ties that for decades made up Que­bec’s po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment.Out­go­ing Pre­mier Philippe Couil­lard’s Lib­er­als, at 32 seats, lost more than half of what they won in 2014 while the PQ, at nine seats, was stripped of its of­fi­cial party sta­tus. Both hit all-time lows in the pop­u­lar vote.Los­ing party sta­tus means the PQ, the party of René Lévesque that once claimed to rep­re­sent the col­lec­tive as­pi­ra­tions of the Québé­cois peo­ple, will lose speak­ing time in the leg­is­la­ture and money for re­search bud­gets.Le­gault promised to “put money back in the wal­lets of Que­be­cers,” in­vest more in early de­tec­tion for learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties in chil­dren, re­or­ga­nize the health-care sys­tem so it’s more ef­fi­cient and re­duce Que­bec’s de­pen­dence on equal­iza­tion pay­ments from the federal gov­ern­ment.Le­gault said he would be speak­ing later in the day with For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land about the new United States-Mex­ico-Canada Agree­ment.He said he had not been briefed on the specifics and has not ruled out any measures to re­spond to a deal that has been de­nounced by Que­bec dairy farm­ers.As for the rest of Canada, Le­gault said it has noth­ing to worry about be­cause his gov­ern­ment will be “col­lab­o­ra­tive.”“I think many things can be done be­tween Que­bec and Canada re­gard­ing the econ­omy. We have com­mon chal­lenges in im­prov­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity of our com­pa­nies,” he said.“I am a prag­matic guy,” Le­gault said. “We are a prag­matic party.”

Que­bec pre­mier-des­ig­nate François Le­gault is all smiles in Que­bec City Tues­day, af­ter his pro­vin­cial elec­tion win Mon­day brought the Coali­tion Avenir Que­bec to power, end­ing decades of two-party rule.

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