Couillard promises to work closely with Ottawa and other provinces

Quebec's new Liberal premier promised Thursday to work closely with other provinces and the federal government while at the same time defending his own province's interests.

Philippe Couillard said he intended to take that message to a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper later in the day.

"We want to work together with our fellow Canadians in growing the economy and creating jobs but also we're going to assume our full responsibility of defending and promoting Quebec's interests in the federation,'' the premier said.

"Any changes in Canada's institutions (must) reflect the specific needs of Quebec, the weight we have to maintain in the country and the representation we have to keep in the country.''

A spokesman for Harper said the two men met for 50 minutes and described the discussion as ``cordial.''

Carl Vallee said Harper indicated during the get-together that his government intends to work closely with Couillard's on joint priorities such as the economy and job creation.

They also discussed infrastructure, energy and Couillard's maritime policy, Vallee said.

Couillard mused during the recent election campaign about travelling to the rest of the country to discuss the idea of eventually holding talks aimed at getting Quebec to sign the Constitution.

After being accused by his political rivals of wanting that signature at any cost, Couillard backtracked and said there was little appetite at the moment for constitutional negotiations.

He also made it clear the initiative would have to come from English Canada.

The election of Couillard's majority government will likely result in improved relations between Quebec and Ottawa after the strained ties the federal government had with the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois.

Harper and Couillard share a focus on the economy, a topic that dominated most of the premier's first news conference since he was sworn in on Wednesday.

Photo credit: CTV

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