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Quebec’s Marois on Saskatchewan Premier Wall: He's 'ratoureux'

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois speaks at a campaign stop in Drummondville, Que., on March 24, 2014.

RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Brad Wall may be Canada's most popular premier, but he's not the favourite of Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois.

Ms Marois, who is running for re-election, says she gets along great with the other provincial leaders when they meet, but she called the Saskatchewan Premier a sneaky little devil who often tries to trip her up.

"I have very good exchanges with all of the premiers of Canada, when I'm at the Council of the Federation or other meetings, but Mr. Wall really doesn't think like me," Ms. Marois said.

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Ms. Marois used the word ratoureux to describe Mr. Wall, which she described as "a very Québécois expression." There's no direct translation for the word, but it describes a person of cunning who is something of a troublemaker. It is often used as a term of endearment – but not always.

Ms. Marois offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the dynamic on Tuesday when asked about the frosty relationship. She pointed to a recent meeting of premiers where they were sorting out demands from Ottawa for a renewed jobs-training program. She said Mr. Wall kept trying to push Quebec's demand to opt out of the program with compensation into the footnotes of the agreement.

The disagreement may sound like a small thing, but Ms. Marois said she "stood up to him" to have Quebec's position pushed into the main document.

"He'll try to avoid adopting my proposals; he says he'll take that one, not another; he tries to shove them into the annex," she said. "A lot happens in English, so I have to pay close attention. Even if I don't speak perfectly, I understand very well. But he'll sometimes play with subtleties.

"It's in that sense that he's ratoureux," she said in French.

Word of the Quebec Premier's evaluation quickly got back to Mr. Wall on social media and to Saskatchewan, where reporters wondered about the fuss.

"I'm not even running in that election," Mr. Wall said on Twitter, where he often likes to joke around. "The only people I try to trip up are the opposition," he said in another tweet, this time in French.

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Mr. Wall told reporters at the Saskatchewan legislature that he did indeed recall a disagreement over where to publish a Quebec position, but "it's not like I was trying to break up the country."

Mr. Wall was asked if he uses the subtleties of the English language to trip up Ms. Marois, who is struggling to learn it: "I don't have a command of the subtleties of the English language."

"I have no idea how I'm now involved in the Quebec election. This is all quite perplexing."

The matter first arose on Monday, when La Presse published a day-in-the-life piece on Ms. Marois. Her description of Mr. Wall as ratoureux was mentioned in passing. A reporter followed up Tuesday.

An Angus Reid poll conducted in January showed Mr. Wall was the most popular among the provincial premiers, while Ms. Marois was middle of the pack.

Mr. Wall, who has always denied having national ambitions, has carefully cultivated ambiguity on whether he speaks much French. When a Canadian Press reporter recently tested him, the language triggered "a slight spark of recognition" but it was clear he's not in heavy language training, it was reported.

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He said Tuesday that as Saskatchewan premier he does go to premiers' meetings with the national perspective in mind, which may help explain the friction with Quebec's separatist premier.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

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