Marois says independent Quebec would use dollar, request Bank of Canada seat

QUEBEC – An independent Quebec would keep using the Canadian dollar and ask for a seat at the Bank of Canada, Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois said Wednesday.

Marois told reporters at a campaign stop that Canada would benefit from having a sovereign Quebec maintain its ties to the loonie and the central bank.

However, the leader of the province’s independence movement acknowledged there would be no guarantees on how much influence a Quebec country would have with the Bank of Canada.

“We could wish to have a seat at the Bank of Canada, but we accept the fact it is the bank’s monetary policy that would apply,” Marois said as she campaigned for the April 7 election.

Marois’s remarks reiterated the PQ’s long-held position that Quebec would continue to use the Canadian currency if it secedes. She pointed out that European countries share the euro even though they are independent.

Before the 1995 referendum on Quebec independence, former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau repeatedly said he had no problem with keeping the Canadian dollar —regardless of what Canada thought.

In 1991, he acknowledged that using the Canadian dollar would remove one of Quebec’s economic-development tools, but noted it would be “better to have one instrument missing than to jeopardize the entire project.”

Parizeau had also said the idea of creating a Quebec currency “invariably sparks widespread panic among people.”

The discussion over what currency an independent Quebec would use remains hypothetical, as polls have suggested recent support for sovereignty in the province barely reached 40 per cent.

But talk about Quebec secession has been pushed into the spotlight as the PQ drives for a majority government.

On Wednesday, Marois tried to make the case for an independent Quebec to remain on the central bank’s governing council, arguing it would benefit Canada because her province has a large economy.

“There are eight million people living here in Quebec and we have an economy that is a rich one,” said Marois, who has made great efforts in recent months to improve the PQ’s image as a fiscal manager.

“We have a lot of consumers. We have a lot of business organizations on our territory and I think it is important to have a place at this level (the Bank of Canada). But if it is not the case, we will see.”

The PQ leader also promised Wednesday to reduce Quebec’s debt to under 50 per cent of gross domestic product by 2018-19. As of March 31, 2014, it was projected to stand at $198.4 billion, or 54.3 per cent of GDP.

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard once again directed his attack at Marois’s intention to lead Quebecers toward another sovereignty vote.

“The mechanics of a referendum are already underway,” said Couillard, whose federalist Liberals made up the official Opposition before last week’s election call.

“It’s all planned. It’s the lobster trap that Mr. Parizeau talked about a few years ago. It’s been designed. Open. Hey, the bait is here. Get in Quebecers, get in the lobster trap and then we’ll close the door and you’ll have a referendum no matter what.”

Couillard was referring to a La Presse report that quoted Parizeau comparing independence-bound Quebecers to “lobsters in boiling water” as he met with European ambassadors at a private gathering in 1995.