Meet Pauline Marois, Quebec's Controversial First Woman Premier

Illustration for article titled Meet Pauline Marois, Quebec's Controversial First Woman Premier

Last night, Quebec separatist leader Pauline Marois led the Parti Quebecois to narrow victory and became the first female premier of the French-speaking Canadian province. Marois is also the first separatist to rule the province in more than a decade, but not all of her Parti Quebecois (PQ) members are so sure she's right for the job.

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Back in June 2011, half a dozen leading PQ legislators quit because they didn't think Marois, 63, could lead the province to independence from Canada — the ultimate goal for fervent separatists, who have been fighting for their own country since Quebec voters first elected a separatist government in 1976. But Canadians don't call Marois the "Lady of Concrete" for nothing; Marois, who has been in politics since 1981 and has served more than a dozen cabinet posts, refused to step down and will now have to balance leading the financially-challenged province with making the separatists happy.

"There will be a lot of changes, but done in an orderly fashion," she's said. But not everyone wants an "orderly fashion" when it comes to separating from the rest of the country. "It is clear the current PQ will not lead us to sovereignty. Another PQ, perhaps, but not the one we have now. It is not unifying or inspiring enough," former PQ cabinet minister and Marois ally Joseph Facal wrote in the Journal de Montreal on Monday. And in 2011, after the PQ legislators quit even though Marois had a 93 percent vote of confidence at a party congress that April, rebel legislator Jean-Martin Aussant said "I do not think Mrs Marois is the woman people want to follow when it comes to creating a country."

Maybe it's because creating a new country doesn't seem like her top priority. During her victory speech, Marois said in English — a significant decision — that the rights of all Quebec residents would be respected. "We share the same history, and I want us to shape together our future," she said. But her reign has already gotten off to a rocky start — a gunman opened fire during her victory speech last night in an attempt to assassinate her, killing one person and wounding another instead. Afterwards, he shouted in French, "The English are waking up!"

It'll be interesting to see what Marois does first. According to MSNBC, one of her signature achievements was setting up a full-time subsidized daycare program for children aged five to 12 when she was education minister in 1998. Will she be able to focus on social and financial issues amidst all the controversy?

Separatist 'Lady of concrete' is Quebec's first woman premier [MSNBC]
1 dead after shooting at new Quebec premier's victory speech [CNN]

DISCUSSION

ellejay

fyi, while quebec is certainly carrying a massive debt, they still have plenty of industry to bolster them. tourism would increase under a separated quebec, as they will be more free to express their culture. hydro-quebec is the largest energy generator in canada, and the world's largest hydroelectric producer. plus, you know, quebec is home to one of the world's very last asbestos mines. pair that with it's surplus of schools, other natural resources and there's no reason why quebec couldn't support itself. canada would be foolish to revoke canadian dollar priviledges, though i'm sure quebec would be happy to use the american dollar.

as for the atlantic provinces, they would certainly be the ones to lose out. but i believe this is what you'd call a bargaining chip for quebec. it's a 7hr 21 min drive from hawksbury, ontario to edmundston, new brunswick or 602km. difficult, but not impossible to keep them in canada.