LUCIEN BOUCHARD will soon become Canadian unity's biggest
The fiery orator, who came within an eyelash of rallying
Quebeckers to separate from Canada, is slated to become Quebec's
Undaunted by the narrow vote against independence Oct. 30, Mr.
Bouchard says his goal is still to make Quebec a nation. Smiling
and relaxed, Bouchard this week accepted the call of the Parti
Quebecois (PQ) - Quebec's governing party - to become the
"The fundamental objective of the Parti Quebecois remains
sovereignty," said Bouchard. "We've never been so close."
His move to Quebec City poses both complex new problems and some
opportunities for separatist forces.
He has promised another referendum on separation, probably by
April 1997. When asked by reporters if Canada could come up with an
offer to woo him and Quebec to stay within the federation, he was
intransigent. "No, it's not possible," he said. "I am a
Bouchard's decision follows Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau
unexpected Oct. 31 resignation after the referendum's defeat the
Bouchard excels in his current role of gadfly to Prime Minister
Jean Chretien in the House of Commons. But Bouchard so far has
enjoyed mostly appointed government posts; some say he is popular
partly because he has not had to make many publicly unpopular
choices. Will he excel in the arguably harder role of governing and
With Quebec's deficit projected at $2.9 billion this fiscal
year, second-worst deficit among the provinces, Bouchard will be
obliged to chop deeply. Such cuts could fray the PQ coalition by
alienating public-employee labor unions cultivated by Parizeau.
"There are some in the PQ who would prefer to protect Bouchard
from having to make the sorts of tough spending cuts that might
make him less popular," says Bruce Campbell, an Ottawa-based
political consultant. "They would rather have had him as a heavy
hitter stepping in fresh during the next referendum."
Bouchard acknowledged that all would not be sweetness and light
as the province gets its fiscal house in order. But some say his
popularity may not suffer because Bouchard laid the groundwork
during the recent referendum campaign for blaming coming hardships
on Ottawa. Every "sparrow that falls in Quebec" will be blamed on
federal government cuts, Mr. Campbell says.
Bouchard's move could undermine the separatist cause in one
subtle, but significant way. He leaves behind the Bloc Quebecois
(BQ), a group of 52 separatists who have been the official
opposition party in Canada's House of Commons in Ottawa since the
fall of 1993. …