QUEBEC - The Quebec government is taking an initial step that could lead to the creation of its own international-aid agency that would run parallel to the Government of Canada's.
The pro-independence provincial government had raised the idea of wresting away Quebec's share of the Canadian International Development Agency budget, to create its own body, during the recent election campaign.
It's one of numerous ideas floated by the Parti Quebecois under its plan for so-called "sovereigntist governance," which aims to loosen ties to Canada.
Now the provincial government has asked a Quebec association of development groups to study what such a provincial department should look like.
A committee, led by the Quebec Association for International Solidarity, is expected to produce a report on the project by the end of 2013
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier said the committee should also assess the amounts that may be repatriated to Quebec towards a future provincial agency. He estimated the amount at around $800 million.
The PQ government says federal aid programs have become tainted by the priorities of the federal Conservative party.
The federal government has said it wants to increasingly pair aid efforts with Canadian mining projects abroad.
"When CIDA was founded, it was founded on Quebec values that were shared with many Canadians," Quebec International Relations Minister Jean-Francois Lisee told a news conference on Wednesday. "But CIDA has changed. It is not us."
Lisee said CIDA has become tightly integrated into the economic development strategy of the Canadian government.
"The notion of international solidarity now appears more and more marginalized."
The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement after Lisee's and poured cold water on the notion of Ottawa changing its policies.
''As the prime minister often says, we intend to respect the Canadian Constitution, and this is clearly an area of federal jurisdiction,'' it said.
''We donít see any changes forthcoming to the way the federal government administers its foreign assistance programs.''