Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hard-Line Separatist Tosses a Bomb into Canada's Campaign Book Claims Quebec Might Have Split Suddenly in 1995

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hard-Line Separatist Tosses a Bomb into Canada's Campaign Book Claims Quebec Might Have Split Suddenly in 1995

Article excerpt

Canada's election campaign has turned sharply from polite debate over tax cuts into a snarling fight over a visceral worry of many English-speaking Canadians: the sudden exit of French-speaking Quebec province.

Former Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau, one of the more hard-line of separatists, has suddenly revived Canada's big debate over unity. In a new book, excerpts of which were published May 7 in a Quebec City newspaper, Mr. Parizeau writes that had a slim majority voted "yes" in Quebec's secession referendum on Oct. 30, 1995, he would likely have declared independence within 10 days.

That revelation rudely jolted to life Canada's sleepy federal election campaign and threw leading separatists for a loop. Parizeau's statement is contrary to all previous separatist assurances that a smooth departure from Canada, including close economic ties, would be negotiated over a year's time. "They did not tell the people the truth," Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien responded. "It's incredible to develop a plan without informing the people." Parizeau, who is officially retired from politics, hotly denied last week that he would have executed the plan his book describes. But the damage to separatist credibility among many Quebeckers may already be done. His remarks have torpedoed the separatist Bloc Quebecois led by Gilles Duceppe. "I don't know how he could have thought and written that," Mr. Duceppe told reporters of the published excerpts. "I don't know what world Mr. Parizeau is living in." Only a day earlier, Duceppe had welcomed Parizeau back onto the hustings to help stump for the Bloc in the campaign for the June 2 national elections. But Duceppe has since backpedaled as fast as he can, saying he can no longer appear on the same platform with Parizeau. Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, who also was intimately involved in helping Parizeau with the 1995 secession referendum campaign, denies that he ever knew anything about Parizeau's plan. …

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