Parti Quebecois Values Charter Should Go Back to the Drawing Board: Ex-Leader

Article excerpt

Ex-PQ premier: Change the values charter

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MONTREAL - A politely worded bit of prose from a prominent part-time writer has recommended that the Parti Quebecois values charter be softened in a second draft.

The author is Jacques Parizeau, eminence grise of the Quebec sovereignty cause and hero to the movement's grassroots.

The former PQ premier, who organized the 1995 independence referendum that nearly took Quebec out of Confederation, offered his views in a column Thursday in Le Journal de Montreal.

He appeared on the cover of the tabloid beside the all-caps headline: "IT GOES TOO FAR." The headline font was, however, far louder than the column's tone.

In a carefully worded piece, Parizeau suggested the headwear ban be narrowed to apply only to people in positions of authority, like judges and police, which he says is what a provincial inquiry on the issue recommended a few years ago.

"I wouldn't go any further for the moment," Parizeau wrote in the column.

That approach happens to be closer to the position of the Coalition party, which holds the swing vote in the legislature. That would place Parizeau at odds with his old party should it choose to use its current charter plan as a central theme in an election campaign.

The PQ government responded by saying that it welcomes Parizeau's suggestions, as it does the contribution of any citizen.

But as some political commentators suggested Thursday, Parizeau is not just any citizen. He co-founded the PQ in 1968 and has been its leader -- both literally, and figuratively, over the years.

Parizeau is now urging the PQ to draw back, after a political lifetime spent urging it to push forward.

He repeatedly gained the admiration of the party's more hawkish wing by fighting its leaders whenever he felt they strayed too far from the independence goal, as he did when he quit the Rene Levesque cabinet in 1984.

And, unlike almost all other PQ leaders who took a go-slow approach to achieving sovereignty, he launched ahead with a referendum strategy as soon as he was elected in 1994.

He quit politics the day after the referendum loss, which in a bitter concession speech he had blamed on "money and ethnic votes."

In an interview Thursday on Montreal radio station 98.5 FM, Parizeau said his policy on the values charter had nothing to do with making up for those 1995 remarks.

He also insisted that the now-infamous comments were not meant to target specific voters -- just community organizations.

''The common front of the Italian, Greek and Jewish congresses was politically active in an extraordinary way in the No camp and had formidable success,'' Parizeau told host Paul Arcand.

''It was very efficient.''

He certainly didn't make that point clear on the night of Oct., 30, 1995.

In fact, he began that concession speech with an observation on voter behaviour. In a less-remembered part of the speech, Parizeau noted that a certain type of Quebecer was far likelier to support the new country than a certain other type.

"Let's stop talking about francophones from Quebec, if you don't mind. Let's talk about 'us,'" is how Parizeau began the speech, using the French pronoun "nous."

"At a rate of 60 per cent, we voted for (a country)."

A few minutes later, after he made some cheerful predictions about how another referendum might soon be held and won, his sunny facial expression faded and it morphed into a scowl as he delivered the more famous line.

"It's true we were beaten, but by what? …