OTTAWA — Canada is bracing for another fight with Quebec separatists.

Premier Pauline Marois Wednesday called an election for April 7 as she met Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Duchesne to ask him to dissolve the provincial legislature. Polls show Marois’s separatist Parti Quebecois may have enough support to form its first majority government in more than a decade.

“Today, I have summoned my ministers and we have taken the necessary steps to dissolve the National Assembly and call an election,” Marois said in televised remarks in Quebec City. “It’s now up to you, Quebeckers, to decide.”

A majority would set the stage in the French-speaking province for a possible referendum on secession from the rest of Canada, roiling credit markets and threatening to push the Canadian dollar lower.

“If they get a majority, I fully expect they will hold a referendum during their next mandate,” said Harold Chorney, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal. “Marois isn’t going to give up sovereignty.”

A majority victory for the Parti Quebecois would mark the third time since the mid-1970s the party has taken sole control of the province’s legislature, propelling Quebec into another confrontation with the rest of Canada that a former premier once likened to a never-ending visit to the dentist.


Quebec has held two plebiscites on splitting from Canada — in 1980 and 1995 — under previous Parti Quebecois majority governments. The party will hold a third vote if a victory is in sight, Jean-François Lisée, Quebec’s international relations minister, told ICI Radio-Canada television March 1. The separatists came within 0.6 of a percentage point of gaining majority support in the 1995 referendum, but support for the cause has been stalled in the 30 percent range in recent years.

“The Americans or foreign investors or whatnot, I imagine they wouldn’t take it that well,” said Darcy Browne, managing director of currencies at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s CIBC World Markets unit in Toronto.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents in a Léger Marketing Internet poll published Wednesday by Journal de Montreal and the TVA television network said they would back the Parti Quebecois if an election were held now, compared with 35 percent for the Liberal Party.

That result may be enough for the separatists to form a majority government, TVA reported.

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