AP Interview: Quebec Premier Seeks US Investments

By MARIA SANMINIATELLI

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Quebec's new premier, Pauline Marois, doesn't shy away from the truth about her government's separatist ambitions, and is banking on a policy of transparency and fiscal responsibility to lure foreign investors who might otherwise be worried.

It helps that given Marois' slim edge in the legislature â¿¿ she leads a minority government â¿¿ her Parti Quebecois has no chance of passing any legislation calling a referendum on separatism during this mandate. Still, she made clear in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday that breaking away from Canada is a goal.

"I say yes, we are sovereigntists ... and we want to explain this project and to convince the population of Quebec," Marois said. But an eventual move in that direction would be open and democratic, and would not come as a surprise, she added.

"We will not hide it. We will have a debate, we will discuss that and we will do a referendum if we think the population will agree with more than 50 percent of the vote," said Marois, who was on a three-day visit to New York to court potential investors and attract business opportunities.

Quebec has held two referendums to split from Canada, in 1980 and 1995, the last narrowly rejecting independence. A poll done shortly before the province's elections in early September showed support for independence was under 30 percent, but analysts at the time said voters were weary of the Liberals after three terms in office.

More pressing right now for Marois, who is the province's first woman premier, is to project an image of a healthy and well-managed economy and establish her government's credibility with the business community in Canada and abroad.

"I explain first of all, we will be responsible as a government," said Marois.

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