Canada

The Ottawa cavalry is deployed, but can it save the day?

GRAHAM FRASER,LINDA DIEBEL November 15 1976
Canada

The Ottawa cavalry is deployed, but can it save the day?

GRAHAM FRASER,LINDA DIEBEL November 15 1976

The Ottawa cavalry is deployed, but can it save the day?

There had not been so overt a federal presence during a Quebec provincial election since 1939, when federal ministers from Quebec campaigned successfully in support of Adélard Godbout to help topple Premier Maurice Duplessis. This time, as the province headed toward the November 15 election, two former

Trudeau cabinet ministers, Jean March-

and and Bryce Mackasey, joined Premier Robert Bourassa, publicly declaring their fear or separatism and their desire to change the application of Quebec’s controversial Bill 22.

When Allan MacEachen, the federal Liberal House Leader, rose in the Commons to bid his colleague farewell, he observed that Marchand was going “on assignment’’ to Quebec. It was an

unfortunate phrase, which seemed to suggest that the two men were being sent from Ottawa to take charge of an enfeebled Quebec Liberal Party, and the idea was picked up gleefully by René Lévesque, leader of the separatist Parti Québécois, who quoted the line in

almost every speech.

Mackasey, who left the Trudeau cabinet last September after a dispute with the PM over his future in federal politics, was running in the linguistically-mixed westend Montreal riding of Notre Dame de Grâce. The ebullient, second-generation Irish-Quebecker, who is fluently bilingual, was given a good chance of winning his own riding and also of bringing at least some of Quebec's 1.2 million anglophones back to the Liberal fold. Marchand’s task was more difficult. “His problem is that nobody wants him," sourly noted a senior Quebec Liberal. Eighteen

months ago, a quiet attempt by Marchand to leave federal politics to become a professor at Laval University failed. Then in July, Marchand quit the federal cabinet when Ottawa appeared to back down in the dispute over bilingualism at Quebec airports and, after drawn-out discussions, finally signed on with Bourassa.

Marchand was given a tough riding to win: Louis-Hébert, which includes the Quebec City suburb of Ste. Foy and part of the Laval University campus. His principal opponent was the Parti Québécois’ Claude Morin, a prestigious academic and onetime senior constitutional adviser in four Quebec governments. As PQ candidate in 1973, Morin lost to a Liberal by only 777 votes.

On the hustings, Marchand looked tired and worn, grey with fatigue. But the aggressive questioning from péquiste students seemed to ignite the old fire in the man. He lashed out angrily against separatism, against “throwing ourselves into an adventure that would cost us very, very dearly.” But there was also a defensive quality to Marchand’s attacks. He was roundly booed when he said that the separatists had no right to mislead “a little people,” and stressed Quebec’s economic andtechnological weakness in the face of 250 million English-speaking North Americans. It was equally clear that he was pained by the state of French-English relations in Canada. “You know, if I were to become a separatist tomorrow,” he said, “I would become a great man overnight in Quebec. It’s easy to give in to those pressurés. What is difficult is to say no.” For Marchand, the real source of French-Englishtension is not in Ontario or

the west—but in Montreal, where “the English have refused to learn French for so many generations.”

Unlike Marchand, who in appealing to a predominantly francophone constituency downplayed his opposition to Bill 22, Mackasey was able to kick off his campaign with the modest claim that he had “something to do” with Bourassa’s promise to revamp the language law. Education Minister Jean Bienvenue called the timing of Liberal concessions a “coincidence.” But the announcement came only a few days after Mackasey made a boisterous entry into the race with the scarcely veiled threat that he would not be part of any government that treats “minorities like second-class citizens.” Mackasey’s efforts were being directed tothe24Quebec ridings where the anglophone or immigrant vote could tip the electoral balance. In hisown riding, which went solidly Liberal last time, his campaign was slick and well organized with the help of imported talent from Ottawa. On the hustings, he reminded voters that “once again you’re being unfairly asked to decide if you want this country to stay together.” That was why, he said, he was running in Quebec instead of accepting an $80,000-a-year job as head of a Crown corporation, rumored to be Canadian National. Other considerations may have crossed Mackasey’s mind. Liberal sources noted that he is still eyeing the possibility of succeeding Trudeau as federal Liberal leader, and being seen as a savior of Confederation and the protector of anglophone rights in Quebec would not harm hischances.

GRAHAM FRASER/LINDA DIEBEL