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Elections open door for separatists

Political party may have enough support

Canada is bracing for another fight with Quebec separatists.

Premier Pauline Marois yesterday called an election for April 7 as she met Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Duchesne to ask him to dissolve the provincial legislature.

Polls show Marois’s separatist Parti Quebecois may have enough support to form its first majority government in more than a decade.

“Today, I have summoned my ministers, and we have taken the necessary steps to dissolve the National Assembly and call an election,” Marois said in televised remarks in Quebec City.

“It’s now up to you, Quebeckers, to decide.”

A majority would set the stage in the French-speaking province for a possible referendum on secession from the rest of Canada, roiling credit markets and threatening to push the Canadian dollar lower.

“If they get a majority, I fully expect they will hold a referendum during their next mandate,” said Harold Chorney, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal.

“Marois isn’t going to give up sovereignty.”

A majority victory for the Parti Quebecois would mark the third time since the mid-1970s the party has taken sole control of the province’s legislature, propelling Quebec into another confrontation with the rest of Canada that a former premier once likened to a never-ending visit to the dentist.

Quebec has held two plebiscites on splitting from Canada – in 1980 and 1995 – under previous Parti Quebecois majority governments.

The party will hold a third vote if a victory is in sight, Jean-Francois Lisee, Quebec’s international relations minister, told ICI Radio-Canada television Saturday.

The separatists came within 0.6 of a percentage point of gaining majority support in the 1995 referendum, but support for the cause has been stalled in the 30 percent range in recent years.

“Will it be during the first mandate, during the second or during the third?” Lisee said on the broadcast.

“I don’t know.”

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