MONTREAL – Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has no interest in discussing the merits of another referendum on sovereignty.
The staunch federalist and former Liberal MP says there are way more important things to worry about during the Quebec election campaign, like the economy.
When asked to take a position on the referendum debate, Coderre said he sided with his city.
“My flag is Montreal,” Coderre told at a news conference Sunday, standing alongside Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois following a meeting at city hall.
“What Montrealers are talking about is the economy, so don’t come here with an election about a referendum. We don’t want one.”
The separatist PQ has so far only committed to preparing a white paper on the prospect if it earns a majority on April 7.
But ever since Pierre Karl Peladeau joined the PQ a week ago and declared his commitment to an independent Quebec, the issue has popped up often in the campaign.
On Sunday, Marois agreed the election shouldn’t be centred on whether there should be another referendum.
She accused provincial Liberal leader Phillipe Couillard of trying to make it the focus.
“I never wanted an election about a referendum,” she said.
Sovereignty isn’t the only point on which Coderre and Marois disagree.
Coderre is also against the PQ’s proposed charter of values, which would ban public employees from wearing religious headgear.
“You know my position, the premier knows my position, so there’s no need to discuss it,” he said.
Despite their differences, both Coderre and Marois insisted they have a good working relationship.
Marois said the PQ, which is looking to gain ground in Montreal as it pursues a majority mandate, is committed to improving the city’s infrastructure and economy.
Coderre said he’s planning to meet with other party leaders during the campaign to spell out what’s needed for Montreal.
Couillard, meanwhile, has been faced with questions of his own when it comes to relations between Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Marois has attacked the Liberal leader for his approach to getting Quebec’s distinctiveness recognized.
She even suggested Couillard call a referendum of his own on his constitutional plans.
After initially saying he would push for Quebec’s unique status with federal and provincial officials if constitutional talks should reopen, Couillard said Saturday he would prefer to focus on the economy.
He appeared to soften his stance further on Sunday, telling reporters at Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade it wouldn’t be a priority for a Liberal government.
- with files from Martin Ouellet and Julien Arsenault in Montreal