Separatists, foes join to oust Canada government

Mon Dec 1, 2008 8:09pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Arch foes in the battle over whether Quebec should gain independence from Canada looked like best friends on Monday as they sat down to sign an agreement to try to wrest power from the minority Conservative government.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who got into politics in 1996 to fight Quebec separatism, sat next to Gilles Duceppe, leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois -- as well as the head of the federalist New Democratic Party, Jack Layton.

Standing directly behind the signing table in the grand Railway Committee Room of the House of Commons was a solitary Canadian flag -- and no Quebec flag.

"We are in Canada. I'm pleased by it, he's not," Dion said, referring to Duceppe. "But ... we have agreed to do something in these tough times, to do it as democrats."

"I trust him, we'll work with him for that. For the rest, we'll continue to have a respectful democratic disagreement," Dion said.

To laughter, Duceppe shot a quick rejoinder to suggest they would continue to disagree on Quebec's future: "Believe me!"

The three parties came together in the space of several days to try to put the boot to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives, re-elected with a strengthened minority on October 14.

Duceppe said he did not have to give up his political goals to sign an agreement which would see the Liberals and New Democrats form a coalition government with the explicit written support of the Bloc.   Continued...

<p>New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton (L), Liberal leader Stephane Dion (C) and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe take part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 1, 2008. The leaders of Canada's three opposition parties said on Monday they have written to the Governor General asking her to call on Liberal leader Dion to form a new government. REUTERS/Blair Gable</p>