Couillard takes seat in National Assembly amid election rumours

Premier Pauline Marois (right) greets Liberal leader Philippe Couillard in the National Assembly, Feb. 11, 2014.

Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard re-entered the National Assembly on Tuesday, after an absence of more than five years.

And speculation about a spring election was front and centre.

Couillard's first Assembly clash as Liberal leader with premier Pauline Marois in the National Assembly hinged on whether or not the PQ would introduce a budget before calling that election, with Marois responding there's no election forthcoming in the next few days — or the next few weeks.

"All I can say is that there's been a budget in the works for some time," she said, without actually committing to presenting one.

Before question period started on Tuesday, party leaders and independant MNAs made speeches to welcome each other back for another session — among those independents, Fatima Houda-Pepin, who left the Liberal party last month following an argument with party brass over a Muslim headscarf called a chador.

She was the first to welcome Couillard to his new seat — and then, she suggested that MNAs must be, above all, the voices of their constitutents, and not their parties.

Couillard did not acknowledge her apparent rebuke.

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