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PQ minister says Trudeau faces big challenge in Quebec

Alexandre Cloutier, is Quebec’s Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

JACQUES BOISSINOT/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Justin Trudeau faces as a big a challenge as any of his recent predecessors to win back the support of Quebec, which has not fully embraced the Liberal Party of Canada for more than 30 years.

Not since his father Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the 1970s and early 1980s has any Liberal leader been able to dominate the federal political landscape in Quebec. Jean Chrétien won three majority governments from 1993 to the early 2000s but Liberal support in the province was tepid during that era.

The Liberal decline in Quebec began with the repatriation of the Constitution without the consent of the Parti Québécois government in 1982.

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Alexandre Cloutier, the province's minister for intergovernmental affairs, said in an interview Sunday that Mr. Trudeau must now define what vision of federalism he intends to propose to Quebeckers

He also urged Mr. Trudeau to support Quebec's demand for an independent inquiry into recent allegations that former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Bora Laskin revealed confidential information to senior officials in the Canadian and British government while the court was deliberating on the constitutionality of the repatriation process in the early 1980s.

"We are at the heart of a fundamental democratic principle involving the separation of powers between the courts and the government, and he must take these allegations seriously," said Mr. Cloutier.

Public opinion polls indicate no single federal party can claim outright dominance over the province.

Laval University political science professor Guy Laforest contends that under Mr. Trudeau, the Liberals have the potential to gain the level of support that neither Stéphane Dion nor Michael Ignatieff were capable of achieving _ despite the NDP's surprising showing in the 2011 election.

Mr. Trudeau is also much younger than former Liberal prime ministers Mr. Chrétien and Paul Martin who, according to Mr. Laforest, represented the party's bitter constitutional past as well as the devastating sponsorship scandal that handicapped the party in Quebec for the past 10 years.

"Nobody can tie Mr. Trudeau to the sponsorship scandal, "Mr. Laforest said. "He can project a fresh outlook allowing for several conditions to come together that could allow the Liberals to make substantial gains in Quebec under his leadership."

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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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