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Marois says sovereign Quebec would have power over energy decisions

Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois gestures during a campaign stop in Blainville, Que., March 7, 2014.

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS

Quebec says it is powerless to impose changes to a decision that will allow Alberta crude to flow to Montreal refineries, but that wouldn't be the case if it was a sovereign country, says Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois.

On Thursday, the National Energy Board approved a request by Enbridge Inc. to reverse the flow of its 9B pipeline between Southern Ontario and Quebec.

The PQ minority government had given its conditional support to the project, which will give Quebec refiners access to more affordable western crude.

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Quebec had urged the National Energy Board to take into account Quebec's concerns before giving its approval. A report prepared by a National Assembly committee last December requested that certain conditions be met. These included guarantees on the safety and security of the aging pipeline as well as the creation of a reserve fund to cover the cost of repairs in the event of a spill. But Ms. Marois said Quebec demands appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

"We have here a good example on how the National Energy Board has the authority over Enbridge to say whether it has the right or not to reverse the flow of the pipeline. In a free sovereign, independent country we would be able to impose our conditions," Ms. Marois said on her campaign as she seeks a majority government in the April 7 vote.

Campaigning in ridings just outside Montreal, the PQ leader played down recent unemployment figures showing a 0.3-percentage-point increase in the February jobless rate to 7.8 per cent. Statistics Canada reported on Friday that Quebec lost 26,000 jobs last month.

Ms. Marois explained that unemployment fluctuates over the course of the year and that it would be wrong to judge her government's performance based on one month's figures.

"There is a lot of variation from one month to another. In 2013 we created 48,000 jobs in the province," Ms. Marois said.

Ms. Marois also scoffed at a news report showing that Quebec's borrowing costs were rising because of the threat that the election of a majority PQ government could lead to another referendum on sovereignty. She called it the habitual scaremongering that failed to recognize that PQ governments have shown in the past that they can be relied on to properly manage Quebec's public finances.

"We know this tired old message," Ms. Marois said. "They bring it out every time. It's the boogeyman theory."

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About the Author
Quebec City political correspondent

Rhéal Séguin is a journalist and political scientist. Born and educated in southern Ontario, he completed his undergraduate degree in political science at York University and a master's degree in political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.Rhéal has practised journalism since 1978, first with Radio-Canada in radio and television and then with CBC Radio. More

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