Newfoundland says Quebec abusing status in Canada

Wed Jun 9, 2010 5:11pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The premier of Newfoundland raised the sensitive question of Canadian national unity on Wednesday by saying the French-speaking province of Quebec has so many privileges that it is damaging Canada.

Since the 1970s Canada has faced a challenge from Quebec separatists seeking independence for the huge eastern province of 7.5 million. A Quebec referendum on independence in 1995 only just failed, sending shock waves through the country.

Since then federal governments have stressed the importance of Quebec and paid it special attention. Few politicians openly complain for fear of setting off new nationalist strains.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, whose Atlantic province has a long-standing grievance with Quebec over energy transmission, said that Quebec has got its own way too often.

"This ... results in the strangulation of the individual interests of other provinces that don't fit the agenda of Quebec," he said in a speech in Ottawa.

"This is not good for us, individually, provincially or nationally and it creates a serious inequity in our great country. The tail is really wagging the dog and it must stop."

Williams, a famously outspoken figure, has expressed his unhappiness with Quebec before but rarely in such blunt terms and never in the federal capital Ottawa.

Openly attacking Quebec is considered political suicide for federal parties. Canada has had three successive minority governments since June 2004, largely because most of Quebec's 75 seats in the federal House of Commons -- almost a quarter of the total -- are held by separatists.   Continued...

<p>Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams listens to a question during a news conference after a Council of the Federation meeting in Montreal in this October 20, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>