Parti Quebecois sounds warning about possible Canada-EU trade deal

MONTREAL – Quebec’s official Opposition, which is leading in public-opinion polls with an election looming, is sounding some alarm bells about a potential Canada-European Union free-trade deal.

Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois says she’s worried the final agreement might restrict the ability of governments to favour local companies or workers while issuing contracts.

“In public tendering, for instance, we want to privilege certain companies that are here and that have the necessary expertise,” she told a crowd Thursday at a Montreal foreign-policy forum.

The PQ has traditionally been a staunch backer of free trade, in a province where free trade has hardly been controversial. In fact, an early champion of the current Canada-EU negotiations was Quebec’s Liberal Premier Jean Charest.

But the opposition leader said she’s worried about the level of secrecy in the ongoing discussions.

Marois said she’s also anxious to see some protectionist measures maintained in agriculture — because, she said, she believes in “agricultural sovereignty.”

While she has concerns about an open labour market, Marois said she wouldn’t touch the labour-mobility agreement Quebec already has with France.

Marois has another foreign-policy plan if she wins the next Quebec election, which might happen as early as this spring but which could come any time over the next year-and-a-half.

She wants Quebec to create its own international development agency and see it take over Quebec’s share of the funds currently allocated by the Canadian International Development Agency.