Philippe Couillard says he's not pushing constitutional debate

Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard continues to fend off more questions about his views on re-opening constitutional talks with the rest of Canada, after he opened that can of worms last week.

Couillard told reporters at his daily news conference in Laval this morning that the constitution and Quebec's place in the federation are not a major issue or a top priority right now. He said he won't be the one to initiate constitutional talks because jobs and the economy are his priorities right now, but he is leaving an opening.

"Right now, I'm not hearing anyone in Canada advocating a reopening of constitutional talks. So obviously it's not going to happen at least in the near future. Meanwhile we have to concentrate on the economy, jobs, education and healthcare," Couillard said.

"If other parts of the country want to open constitutional talks on areas of interest like the senate or whatever other subject that come on the carpet then my answer is, again, I will participate in those discussions to the extent that Quebec's demands will also be on the agenda."

Couillard also defended his attacks on Premier Pauline Marois and her stance on Quebec sovereignty and holding another referendum. Montreal mayor Denis Coderre said yesterday he doesn't want this campaign to turn into a referendum-election. Couillard said he was not feeding the fire but rather "clarifying" the situation.

"I'm fed up with the PQ always trying to hide their true objective behind a curtain during the election and take it out after, the famour lobster trap that Mr. (Former premier Jacques) Parizeau described a few years ago," Couillard said.

"I decided to put it out in the open from Day One because let's make no mistake, this is what they want to do. They want a majority government, Madame Marois said it in November: 'pour le pays (for a country).' That's their objective and they will do anything, anything to do that."

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