Quebec issues warning to Ottawa on eve of federal budget: no more surprises

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MONTREAL – The Quebec government is sending a stern message to Ottawa on the eve of the latest federal budget: no more ugly surprises for Quebecers.

A pair of Parti Quebecois cabinet ministers issued a joint statement today outlining a list of demands directed at Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who will unveil his budget Tuesday.

Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau says he wants Flaherty’s budget document to refrain from provoking new battles with the province.

He is calling on his federal counterpart to avoid hurting Quebec’s economy.

The PQ statement lists nine categories under which the Quebec government opposes federal economic policies, including Ottawa’s new infrastructure plan, its federal skills-training program and changes to transfer payments the province says have caused “important losses.”

The message was sent to Ottawa amid widespread speculation Premier Pauline Marois could call a spring election even before her pro-independence PQ tables its own budget.

Recent polls have suggested the minority PQ has gained in popular support, a boost Marois could see as an opportunity to secure a majority mandate in the next election.

If re-elected to a majority, Marois is promising her party would consult Quebecers on whether the province should hold another referendum on independence.

Her government’s message to Ottawa was also sent on a day former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau issued his own warning to Quebec City, as he raised concerns over the state of the province’s struggling economy.

Parizeau, an economist, cited two recent studies on the Quebec economy and wrote that Quebecers are spending more money than they can afford.

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