Former Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau passed away yesterday following a long illness. He was 84.
An economist by trade, Parizeau would be a key figure in developing the Quebec Pension Plan and the nationalization of Hydro Quebec. Rene Levesque would name him Minister of Finance after the Parti Quebecois’ election victory in 1976. Parizeau would have a falling out with Levesque in 1984 when he and several other cabinet ministers believed that Levesque had gone soft on independence following the loss in the 1980 Quebec Referendum and the establishment of the Canadian Constitution in 1982. Parizeau would become PQ leader in 1989 and would be elected Premier in 1994.
Parizeau was in office during the second Quebec referendum in 1995. After initially leading the Yes campaign, he took a back seat to the more charismatic Bloc Quebecois leader Lucien Bouchard who had survived flesh eating disease nearly a year earlier. Bouchard galvanized the Yes forces and came within a few thousand votes of separating from Canada.
But when Quebec voted no, it was Parizeau who took the stage to blame the loss on “money and the ethnic vote.” By the ethnic vote, Parizeau was talking about the province’s Italian, Greek and especially the Jewish community. Parizeau, who had been intoxicated when he made the comments, resigned as Premier and would be succeeded by Bouchard. In vino veritas.
The appetite for Quebec separatism has been on the ebb ever since although the Pequistes have certainly influenced Scottish nationalists and their recent successes. But with the Canadian government passing the Clarity Act which dictates the term of negotiations should Quebec or any other provicne secede, many in Quebec have come to the realization that you can’t be independent and still send MPs to Ottawa and have the Canadian dollar.
The Parti Quebecois was returned to power in 2012 under Pauline Marois, but only attained a minority government which quickly fell apart and the Liberals returned to power last year. There will come a time when the Pequistes win a majority government and hold a third referendum. The only circumstance under which Quebec will vote yes is if they can sell independence beyond the Francophone community. Parizeau’s comments two decades ago prevent this from ever coming to pass.
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