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PM Harper and Quebec’s Marois won’t talk domestic issues in first face-to-face meeting

Prime Minister Stephen Harper participates in a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal presentation in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 9, 2012.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The first face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is set for Saturday morning in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the sidelines of the 2012 Francophonie Summit.

Last month, Ms. Marois became the first sovereigntist Quebec premier in over a decade but both sides are in agreement that a discussion of domestic issues will be left for another day.

"I don't see any donnybrooks. I don't see any big confrontations," said the Prime Minister's spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, during a media briefing Tuesday in Ottawa. "Mme. Marois herself said that we're going to have productive discussions there and I'll leave it at that."

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The Quebec premier did make that point in media interviews that were published Tuesday morning.

"There won't be a grocery list," she told La Presse, in discussing her first meeting with Mr. Harper. "I'm of the view that you don't argue in front of company."

That doesn't mean Mr. Harper can count on ongoing harmony with Quebec. Ms. Marois indicated that her issues with Ottawa will be raised at another time. During the Quebec election campaign, Ms. Marois said she would be asking Ottawa to give Quebec the power to manage Employment Insurance.

"I'll remind Mr. Harper of what he already knows: We are a political organization that wants sovereignty," she said. "I will defend the interests of Quebec, and that our jurisdiction is respected. I'll have the occasion [to raise these issues] eventually, to tell him that I want more for Quebec."

The discussions at the Francophonie Summit are expected to focus on the promotion of the French language, as well as efforts to improve corporate social responsibility by international resource firms operating in Africa.

While in Kinshasa, Mr. Harper plans to meet with representatives of Congo's political opposition in an effort to draw attention to the nation's poor human rights record.

Earlier Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande strongly condemned the political situation in the DRC.

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"The situation in the country is totally unacceptable with regard to rights, democracy and the recognition of the opposition," Mr. Hollande said in Paris, according to Reuters.

Prior to attending the Francophonie in Kinshasa, Mr. Harper will visit Dakar Senegal with International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino. The stop is expected to highlight Canadian aid projects that were funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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