Not any more

Sovereignists to mark referendum anniversaries

In Canada on October 9, 2010 at 09:40

The northern suburb of Terrebonne, which is the fastest-growing town in the fastest-growing region of greater Montreal, will play host Oct. 24 to the sovereignty movement’s commemoration of the 15th and 30th anniversaries of the 1980 and 1995 referendums on sovereignty.

The chief organizers of the event at Theatre du Vieux-Terrebonne are the Parti Quebecois’s two youngest elected members of the National Assembly -Mathieu Traversy of Terrebonne riding and Guillaume Tremblay of neighbouring Masson riding, both 26 years old.

"This is something that we have been planning for several months and the idea is to show that sovereignty is a project for people of all generations in Quebec," said Traversy in an interview this week.

PQ party leader Pauline Marois is to speak at the event, and party language critic Pierre Curzi, an actor by profession, is to read a patriotic text in tandem with his actress girlfriend, Marie Tifo. Other political personalities are to attend. Singersongwriter Paul Piche will perform, as will various artists, including the local percussion group Sultanosto.

The official posters for the dual-anniversary "Oui! A la prochaine fois" gala bear the portraits of Rene Levesque and Jacques Parizeau -but not Lucien Bouchard, whose replacement of Parizeau as chief campaigner for the Yes side in 1995 brought the sovereignists close to victory.

Robert Dupuy, president of the PQ’s Terrebonne riding association, said the absence of recognition of Bouchard simply reflects the fact Bouchard never said anything memorable along the same a-la-prochaine-fois (until next time) theme of Levesque’s famous quip after the Yes side’s 1980 referendum defeat. Levesque said then: "Si j’ai bien compris, vous etes en train de me dire: a la prochaine fois." Parizeau said in 1995, quite apart from his infamous line blaming "money and ethnic votes" for the Yes side loss: "On se crache dans les mains et on recommence." That has the same let’s-try-again sense as Levesque’s 1980 remarks, Dupuy said.

As the dual anniversary approaches, former federal cabinet minister Michael Fortier’s recent suggestion that Quebec should hold referendums on sovereignty every 15 years has been widely shot down as unwise, even by the sovereignty movement.

In a Sept. 30 op-ed article in La Presse, Fortier, a former minister of public works in the Harper government, said fixed-term referendums would help relieve day-today Quebec politics of its perpetual tensions over the national question, and release people of the left and the right wings to work more co-operatively along classic ideological lines. Fortier, a lawyer, is now working in the private sector.

As things stand, argued Fortier, a vague left-centre political mindset dominates Quebec politics because of the national question no matter which party is in power. Removing the question of sovereignty from the day-today administration of Quebec affairs would energize political debate in Quebec by creating more space for opinions other than left-centre orthodoxies, Fortier said.

Bernard Drainville, member of the National Assembly for the South Shore riding of Marie-Victorin, and party critic for Canadian intergovernmental affairs, said in an op-ed reply to Fortier in Le Devoir on Monday that the question of Quebec’s place in Canada is part and parcel of continuing Quebec politics and the one can’t be separated from the other.

He said the idea of fixed-term referendums is undemocratic, and said a referendum should only be held if and when a governing party judges that to be in Quebec’s best interests.

"There will be a referendum when the popular will and the government decides to have one," Drainville said.

Other reaction has been similarity unfavourable to Fortier’s idea.

Thomas Mulcair, New Democratic Party member of Parliament for Montreal’s Outremont riding, has called the idea foolish, while Dimitri Soudas, spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stressed Fortier was speaking as a private citizen and "isn’t speaking for the federal government."

djohnston@montrealgazette.com

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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