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Values charter has no impact on foreign investment in Quebec, premier says

LONDON, England - Premier Pauline Marois says Quebec's proposed values charter doesn't worry foreign investors who might be interested in setting up shop in the province.

Marois said Monday the proposed charter won't have an impact on investment.

The premier made the remarks in London, where she announced two companies would be heading to Montreal to do business.

The government will be giving British firm Cinesite a $1.2-million interest-free loan to establish an office in Montreal and create about 200 jobs during the next four years.

The visual-effects firm has contributed to a number of high-profile movies, including the Harry Potter and X-Men franchises, "World War Z," the soon-to-be-released RoboCop reboot and the Guy Ritchie-helmed "The Man From U.N.C.L.E" among others. Vancouver had been in the running to get the firm.

Marois also announced a $10-million government investment in White Star Capital, a capital-risk firm.

Marois said White Star Capital opening up in Montreal shows Quebec offers a favourable climate for investment.

"We welcome this initiative which has the advantage of being driven in part by Quebecers, which offers an essential service to start-up companies and provides access to a global network," she said. "This is a segment that sometimes struggles to find funding."

The firm was founded by Quebecer Eric Martineau-Fortin and has offices in London and New York City.

Marois was in London ahead of travelling to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

The values charter, known as Bill 60, has created a deep rift in Quebec. Some have welcomed it as a necessary measure while others have blasted it as a source of division and a political ploy to turn attention away from more pressing matters.

It would forbid public employees from wearing visible religious symbols including hijabs, turbans, kippas and larger-than-average crucifixes.

Marois said the proposed legislation is not a factor for outside investors.

"They are interested by our economic policies, by our qualified and creative skilled labour and by the policies of the government to control spending and the deficit," she said.

"That is why investors continue to support the economy of Quebec."

Martineau-Fortin suggested the charter debate hasn't rattled investors.

"We are an investment fund which operates between New York, London and Montreal," he said. "These are not considerations that come into play when it comes to investing."

Marois was obviously pleased by a poll published on Monday which indicated the Parti Quebecois could win a slim majority in an election. She would not discuss any possible election timetable.

"There are plenty of pots on the fire, we have many projects to offer to Quebecers, there are many projects underway, you're going to see that in the coming days," she said.

"We will first work to advance Quebec and create jobs. That is my priority at this time."

She also promoted Quebec's abundant natural resources and touted the PQ's plan to develop the north, dubbed "The North For All." It would replace the previous Liberal government's plan to develop northern Quebec.

She said in a speech that new mining regulations will allow the government to play a more active role in tapping resources.

"We are preparing in anticipation of a recovery in the mining sector and we have many business opportunities for investors willing to partner with us," she told about 200 members of the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce.

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