Quebec separatists concede slim victory to hit economic plans

Wed Sep 5, 2012 4:42pm EDT
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By Leila Lemghalef and David Ljunggren

MONTREAL/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec separatists got ready for a new stint in power on Wednesday, but acknowledged that a surprisingly narrow victory in Tuesday's provincial election would hit their economic plans, in particular a vow to boost royalty rates on mining firms.

Pauline Marois led the left-leaning Parti Quebecois (PQ) to victory, but the party captured only 54 of the 125 seats in the legislature of the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province.

That means the PQ will need support of politicians from the two main opposition parties to stay in power. The PQ's ultimate aim is to win a referendum on breaking away from Canada, but that will not happen as long as the party has only a minority of seats in the legislature.

Marois, who has already said she will focus on the economy for now, campaigned on promises to raise personal taxes and boost royalties and taxes on mining firms.

"I want to increase the royalties on the natural resources and the two other parties said they disagree with that," she told a news conference in Montreal.

Previous PQ governments held referendums in 1980 and 1995 on whether to break away from Canada and both failed. The party won just 31.9 percent of the vote on Tuesday, showing that enthusiasm for the idea of independence is muted at best.

The incumbent Liberals won 50 seats. The right-of-center Coalition for the Future of Quebec (CAQ) ended with 19 seats.

The PQ's win, which ended nine years in opposition, was marred by a fatal shooting in the Montreal venue where Marois was giving her victory speech. Police have one man in custody and could give no motive for the shooting.   Continued...