In a style befitting his reputation as a loner, Jacques Parizeau stood unaccompanied on a Montreal stage last week to announce his candidacy for the leadership of the Parti Québécois. Most political observers had expected the declaration ever since then-PQ leader Pierre Marc Johnson stunned party members by resigning on Nov. 10. Still, it was welcome news to supporters of Quebec independence, who are now poised to recapture the PQ from moderates who had backed Johnson. Said Bernard Landry, a former PQ minister who is helping Parizeau pre-
pare policy documents for his leadership campaign: “His mind has been made up since the day Mr. Johnson left.”
Should Parizeau win the May 15 leadership vote—and he is likely to have few, if any, challengers—it would mark a return to a harder line on independence for the PQ. The 57year-old Parizeau resigned as finance minister in the PQ cabinet in November, 1984, when then-premier René Lévesque set aside the party’s goal of sovereignty. Last week a confident Parizeau served notice that his separatist convictions remained intact. “I am returning because I believe the sovereignty of Quebec is not only important, but essential,” he said. “That is the only reason I got into politics 22 years ago.”
Parizeau also promised that he would not be bound by Lévesque’s concept of sovereignty-association, involving independence for Quebec combined with an economic association with the rest of Canada. In fact, Parizeau said that the free trade agreement that the federal government has negotiated with the United States means that outright sovereignty will be more practical because it would give Quebec guaranteed access to the North American market— and remove the threat that an independent Quebec might be economically isolated. Said Parizeau: “A free trade
agreement simplifies things enormously.”
But Parizeau stopped short of indicating what his strategy would be for achieving independence. And he refused to say whether the PQ under his leadership would fight the next Quebec election on the issue. Instead, he promised to disclose a timetable for independence only after a twomonth campaign swing across the province beginning on Jan. 15, ostensibly aimed at gathering the 1,000 signatures required to file his leadership nomination papers. ^ That hesitancy caused ^ some hard-line indépenQ dantistes—who oppose s gaining independence by gradual stepsenough concern to withhold their full support. Said Pierre de Bellefeuille, the first PQ member of Quebec’s national assembly to break with Lévesque in 1984: “Many of us believe that there are still too many unpleasant ambiguities in the party. We will wait until Parizeau clarifies his position.”
Still, most observers agreed that Parizeau’s energy, wit and economic record will revitalize the PQ’s lethargic performance as the official opposition to Premier Robert Bourassa’s Liberal government. Said Landry: “Mr. Parizeau will bring passion back to Quebec politics.” Clearly, Parizeau’s return has brought even more excitement to Quebec’s already unsettled political scene.
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