Updated: Quebec Liberals want province to sign Constitution, at some point

MONTREAL – All three candidates vying for the Quebec Liberal leadership say they want the province to sign the Canadian Constitution, though not necessarily any time soon.

Philippe Couillard, a former health minister and the presumed front-runner, said Saturday it’s something Quebec must work toward.

“It’s not a pressing issue, but it’s something we have to work on,” Couillard said at an English-language leadership debate in Montreal.

“I want Quebec to be a signatory on the Constitution of Canada.”

Pierre Moreau and Raymond Bachand, both ex-ministers as well, also stressed it was an important issue. But Bachand said it wasn’t the time to reopen thorny constitutional talks, while Moreau said it doesn’t necessarily need to happen right away.

“There’s a limited number of hours that a premier has,” Bachand said.

Bachand, a former finance minister and the architect of the Liberals’ university tuition increases, said the priority should be the economy and determining how to fund social services, not the Constitution.

“The day is not right for the debate in this country,” he said.

The Liberals will select former premier Jean Charest’s successor in March.

Charest, who stepped down as Liberal leader after losing the provincial election to the Parti Quebecois last September, was reluctant to address the issue while in office.

As a member of Brian Mulroney’s cabinet, he had a front-row seat in the constitutional debates of the 1980s and 1990s.