MONTREAL – Emmanuel Macron’s election as French president was the best news Canada could have hoped for, particularly regarding free trade, Canada’s ambassador to France said Thursday.
Macron was the candidate who most strongly supported the recently signed European Union-Canada free-trade deal, said Lawrence Cannon, a former federal and Quebec cabinet minister.
“The election of (Macron) means the economic foundations of the Canada-France relationship will not be questioned and will be no doubt be strengthened,” he said in a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.
Despite the final result, France’s election was nevertheless worrisome due to the rising popularity of the far right, he said.
“Never, in France, has the extreme right done so well,” he said about support for Marine Le Pen, who finished with 34 per cent of the vote in the presidential runoff on May 7.
“Eleven million French people voted for a program of xenophobia, protectionism and opposition to European construction.”
Cannon said the results reflect a country that is “disoriented” and “in search of itself.”
The ambassador also discussed the historic tension between France and Canada regarding the question of Quebec sovereignty.
France has historically always had a close relationship with Quebec, with some French governments supporting the province’s independence movement.
Cannon, however, said the conflict is a thing of the past.
He told reporters after his speech he had detected “little appetite” among the French or among Quebecers regarding “distant speculations about the future of the Canadian federation.”
Note to readers: This is a corrected version. The previous story stated in the headline that Cannon was an ex-ambassador