Referendum on Quebec independence possible, party leader says

Published March 8, 2014

Quebeckers might again have an opportunity to vote for the independence from Canada of the mainly French-speaking province.

Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois said an independence referendum is possible should her separatist party form a majority government in the April 7 provincial election.

Quebeckers rejected independence in two earlier referendums, in 1980 and narrowly in 1995.

"There is no promise to hold a referendum and there is no promise not to," she said.

Marois was criticized for her go-slow approach and avoiding the sovereignty debate in the 2012 election campaign in which she focused on corruption, language and identity politics.

"When we decide to hold a referendum, there will be discussions with Quebeckers," Marois said. "Nobody will be taken by surprise."

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said "nobody wants to talk about that (a referendum) right now."

Coalition Leader Francois Legault has accused Marois of running her campaign on the Parti Quebecois' controversial secularism charter instead of the economy.

Harper collects hockey beer bet from Obama

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has claimed his Olympic hockey prize: two cases of beer from President Barack Obama.

The two leaders engaged in a friendly wager over the outcomes of the U.S. and Canada's men's and women's hockey games at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

With Canada winning both gold medals, Obama has had two cases of his special homebrewed White House Honey Ale delivered to Harper.

The bet made over Twitter had Harper writing: "Like I said, #teamusa is good but #wearewinter."

News in brief

• Canada's central bank said its low-interest rate policy will remain in place for now, noting an increase in "volatility in global financial markets." The Bank of Canada added "tensions in Ukraine" to a list of concerns as it kept its key interest rate at 1 percent, where it has been since September 2010.

• The Canadian Navy supply ship HMCS Protecteur has been towed back to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii after a fire at sea severely damaged its engine room and injured 20 sailors. The ship was en route to Esquimalt, British Columbia, at the time. Navy officials are considering whether to repair the 44-year-old ship that is scheduled to be retired next year.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar is lower at 90.18 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.1088 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada has kept its key interest rate at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,296 points and the TSX Venture index 1,038 points.

The average price of a liter of gas across Canada is higher at $1.3270 (Canadian).

Lotto 6-49: (March 5) 7, 26, 31, 38, 46 and 47; bonus 12. (March 1) 3, 8, 16, 23, 34 and 44; bonus 41. Lotto Max: (Feb. 28) 4, 7, 20, 22, 26, 28 and 29; bonus 47.

Regional briefs

• Jayme Pasieka, 29, has been arrested on two counts of first-degree murder after a "rampage" at a Loblaws grocery warehouse in Edmonton. Police said a man wearing combat gear and carrying knives killed Fitzroy Harris, 50, and Thierno Bah, 41, and injured four other workers. Pasieka was employed at the warehouse, police said.

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• Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has turned over the investigation of Mayor Rob Ford and his associates to Ontario Provincial Police. Blair said he wanted to "avoid the distractions that have assumed such recent prominence." The investigation has resulted in the arrest of a Ford friend for drug trafficking and extortion.

• Refiners in Quebec will have access to more crude oil from Western Canada as the National Energy Board has approved Enbridge's plan to reverse the flow and increase the capacity of an existing pipeline. The project involves the part of the line between southern Ontario and Montreal. The Calgary company plans to ship 300,000 barrels of crude through the pipeline daily, up from 240,000 barrels.

• Michelin will significantly reduce tire manufacturing at its car and light truck tire plant in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. The move over the next 18 months will result in the loss of 500 jobs. The cost to upgrade the plant to produce larger-sized tires is "not cost-effective," the company said.

Jim Fox can be reached at