As Quebec's newly elected premier and leader of the Parti Quebecois Pauline Marois delivered a victory speech to supporters in a concert hall in Montreal Tuesday, a gunman in a ski-mask and bathrobe entered the building and discharged his assault rifle, killing one man and injuring another.
"The English are waking up!" the shooter, identified only as a 62-year-old man, was reportedly yelling in French, indicating opposition to the policies of the Parti Quebecois, which favor independence for French-speaking Quebec from Canada.
The shooting took place near a back entrance to the building, away from the main auditorium where Marois was speaking. Marois was ushered off the stage, but later returned to finish her speech in which she said that Quebec would one day be an independent state.
The gunman was apprehended and police say they believe he acted alone.
"At this stage in the investigation, there is nothing to indicate any accomplices or other persons implicated," Montreal Police spokesman Ian Lafreniere told the Vancouver Sun.
The last such occurrence of a politically motivated killing in Canada occurred in 1970, when a group of radical Quebec nationalists kidnapped provincial Labor Minister Pierre Laporte and a British diplomat, later strangling Laporte to death.
Separatism and Economic Realities in Quebec
Perhaps momentarily overshadowed by the violence is the fact that Marois is the first woman to be elected as premier of Quebec with her victory ending nine years of rule by the Liberal Party.
Marois has stated her support for a referendum on Quebec's secession from Canada, but given that the PQ only won a minority in the legislature, 54 seats out of 125, it is unlikely that she will push the issue anytime soon.
A recent poll showed only 28 percent support for independence in Quebec, Reuters reported.
Previous referendums on independence were held in 1980 and 1995 during PQ government, though both attempts were voted down.
Marois has said that her main objective is to focus on the economy, which she would like to move away from dependence on the rest of Canada.
Quebec currently has the highest amount of debt of any Canadian province. Seceding from Canada would ultimately threaten its credit rating, leading to higher interest payments and increasing the possibility of defaulting on its debt.
Marois favors raising taxes on Quebec's big industries such as its mining sector, but may find strong opposition in the legislature.
At the same time she would like to stop rises in tuition fees that have prompted mass student protests, but that would require increased government spending to subsidize education.
Overall, Marois' platform seeks to wrest more control over domestic policies in Quebec from Ottawa, including over immigration policy, unemployment insurance and the public healthcare system, but she will have to gain support from minority parties to push that agenda.
"It's going to be tricky to govern," Michel Poitevin, economics professor at the University of Montreal, told the Canadian Business.
"Any party that would have been elected would have had to make tough decisions. I guess for the PQ, maybe it's going to be harder internally because of all the promises that they made."
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