In backlash to the backlash, Bill 96 leads to flurry of talk on Quebec separatism

Quebec Premier François Legault may not have expected quite this type of fallout from Bill 96, but he found himself hammered by questions on Thursday -- about Quebec independence.

Legault is not in favour of a new Quebec referendum, he repeated several times.

"I don't think the solution is to hold a referendum on sovereignty," he said.

All morning during Question Period at the National Assembly, various opposition parties wanted to drill down into the idea, however, and into the premier's response to Ottawa this week.

"Against the federal government, the premier is powerless," said the Parti Quebecois's Joel Arseneau.

On Wednesday, the federal justice minister confirmed that the Liberal government will intervene when another controversial bill, Bill 21, reaches the Supreme Court.

Minister David Lametti also made clear that he's not a fan of Bill 96, both personally and as a minister and MP. He represents the riding of LaSalle-Émard-Verdun.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said this week he has concerns about Bill 96, though he also spoken of the importance of supporting francophone communities across Canada.

The PQ weren't the only ones who doubled down on the independence debate in the wake of these comments.

"Me, I have a simpler solution," said Vincent Marissal of Quebec Solidaire.

"That's Quebec's independence."

Solidaire says it believes it's only a matter of time before Ottawa more formally sides against Bill 96 as well.

Legault publicly fired back at Trudeau on Wednesday, but on Thursday he told reporters he's not budging on separatism or a new referendum.

"There's no will for that," he said, adding that it looks like a majority of Quebecers would not vote 'yes' in any case right now.

One political analyst said he's not surprised.

"I don't think François Legault wants to open that can of worms," said David Heurtel.

Legault's CAQ party has pushed aside the separation debate before, he said, but that also doesn't mean it won't periodically come up.

"You could never, with 100 per cent certainty, exclude the possibility of a political environment where a referendum could be a political option. You can’t fully exclude it," he said.

But right now, politically speaking, Quebec is far from a new referendum, he said, despite the new high emotions stirred up by Bill 96.

Moreover, despite Legault's anger, the federal Liberals are popular overall in Quebec, Heurtel said. And Ottawa's response is also nothing to be shocked by.

"While Francois Legault's reaction is as expected to the federal announcement, the federal government has the right to intervene on these matters before the courts," he said.

One factor that can't be ignored: the Quebec election, only a few months away, in which Legault will seek an even stronger majority.

The CAQ convention will happen this weekend in Drummondville, meant to kick off election momentum, and the theme of the weekend is "pride."

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