'Are they still meeting?" the taxi driver asked after his
passenger directed him to the congress center where Quebec's
governing Parti Qubcois (PQ) was having its convention.
It is possible to impute too much wisdom to taxi drivers, but he
clearly was suggesting that the party, and the government in Quebec
City, were irrelevant to "real life."
The taxi driver got to this point with his passenger only after a
couple of rounds of Montreal shuffle - wherein two Anglos speak to
each other in French until one or the other realizes that the
conversation would probably proceed more smoothly in English.
Sometimes it is the other way round when conversations switch to
Either way, once he had ascertained that his passenger was not a
Francophone, but a visitor from outside Quebec, he warmed to his
topic. "The morning after [Quebec Premier Lucien] M. Bouchard has
his next referendum, and wins, there are some guys in New York [who
are] gonna give him a buzz. They're gonna call him up and say,
"Remember, Lucien, you can't just do what you want, because we own
75 percent of that place."
It is fair to say that Bouchard is familiar with the idea that
Wall Street exercises some influence on his government. Over the
past few years, he and his team have made many visits to New York to
try to shore up their credit rating by convincing market analysts
that La Belle Province is still a good investment, within or without
Sovereignty - or separatism, to put it in terms Americans would
recognize - is back as the main issue for the PQ. "It's time for us
to go back on the offensive," Bouchard told the convention, whose
theme was "Un pays pour le monde" or "a country for the world."
Reelected in November 1998 with a majority of seats, but fewer
popular votes than the opposition Liberals, the PQ government seemed
like the gang that couldn't shoot straight until just recently. But
some labor contract successes and the new something-for-everyone
budget in March, among other victories, have left Bouchard smelling
like a rose. He won a 91 percent vote of confidence from his party
over the weekend.
"We are really in good shape to try again on sovereignty," Louise
Beaudoin, Bouchard's minister of international relations, told the
The delegates reaffirmed their position that, in the case of a
referendum in favor of sovereignty, Quebec should seek to negotiate
a political and economic partnership with the rest of Canada - "a
partnership that would have political elements," Ms. …