Prominent Canadians reveal their positions for the Oct. 26 referendum
VOICES OF THE NATION
Prominent Canadians reveal their positions for the Oct. 26 referendum
Maclean’s asked a number of prominent Canadians how they intend to vote in the Oct. 26 referendum on the Charlottetown accord. The magazine also contacted several well-known expatriate Canadians for their views on the country’s current political turmoil. Their comments:
ERIC LINDROS, a London, Ont., native and superstar centre with the Philadelphia Flyers Being a Canadian citizen, I can only hope that the political climate is settled with everyone’s best interests and concerns adhered to. Canada is my home and I would love to see the country remain whole.
JOHN POLANYI, Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Toronto
In a way, I’m embarrassed to be voting Yes—I hate to find myself on the side of the elite. But we’ve had a consultation of an unprecedented kind and we’ve arrived at a document which reflects good sense, justice and compromise. We’ve got a collection of civilized words which we now have to translate into civilized action. I don’t agree with the scare tactics. There are people voting in both directions that love Canada. I’m just urging people to see that this is a time to make a leap of faith and allow Canada to get on with its business.
W.P. KINSELLA, writer, White Rock, B.C.
I’ve been on the No side from the start. I can't see how anyone from the West can support this. It’s ludicrous to guarantee Quebec 25 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. The population is going to move towards the Pacific Rim, but Quebecers are never going to give that up. As well, a powerful Senate is absolutely essential to the West. What we’re getting is the same old trash, except more expensive. But there are some really strange bedfellows in this debate; I never thought that I’d be on the same side of anything as that little weasel, Pierre Trudeau.
ANTONINE MAILLET, writer, Montreal I prefer not to reveal my intentions, but to defend my convictions in my own way. I agree that a referendum is necessary, since we are a democracy. But one has to go about it with a lot of discretion. Sometimes, I look at the stars and I wonder what we are under all of that, and how we will see everything in a century, in two centuries or in a millennium from now. So I don’t get overly worked up. I think that if there’s a Yes or if there’s a No, we’ll continue to live the next day.
DAN AYKROYD, an Ottawa native and an actor in Los Angeles
For my money, I would vote Yes. If the referendum is defeated, it is a clear signal to Quebec that it might be free to secede. If it passes, it sends a signal that we want to preserve the country, with Quebec as a distinct part. If that doesn’t happen, then Canada is going the way of the rest of the world, which is back to being like Prussia in 1830: all these principalities having their own self-interests, rivalries and competitions. If Quebecers want independence, I hope they pop their heads out of the groundhog hole long enough to see how rough it is out there, to see the shrapnel flying. But if they do vote No, then we must do all we can to make it an amicable split, however painful.
TOMMY KANE, Montreal native and a wide receiver for the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks
I get angry when I see these problems continu-
ing. My teammates ask me what is going on in my country. I would like to tell Canadians to keep Canada as one. Down here, you don’t see the state of California trying to separate. America is one and Canada should be the same thing—one country.
ALEX TREBEK, a Sudbury, Ont., native and host of the syndicated TV game show Jeopardy in Burbank, Calif.
I don’t like divorces. They get messy and nobody benefits. You have to start with a basic premise: that Canada was formed as a bilingual federation over 100 years ago. Accept that, then learn to live together. If Quebec goes its own way, French-speaking people across the country are going to lose their rights. And Quebec won’t be able to protect its language and culture through isolation. There are too many satellite dishes out there, bringing in TV from the United States and English Canada.
SHARON POLLOCK, playwright, Calgary I am voting No. I see this accord entrenching two classes of citizens. It is too much of a blank cheque and I am unhappy with it basing citizenship on language and culture. My constitution should protect me from the things I don’t like, not entrench them and give free rein to them. The basic problem is that of using two founding races: it does not reflect this country in the West. I find it insulting. Quebec sovereignty won’t go away, regardless of this vote. I see Quebec as a nation to itself. We should have an arrangement that reflects just that—and the rest of the country should have a state that reflects its needs and aspirations.
ALEX COLVILLE, painter, Wolfville, N.S.
The idea of a perfect constitution, like other ideas of perfection, belongs in the sciences and the arts, but not in human affairs or politics. I see nothing wrong with the idea that this accord is not something that would last for everyone, forever. But this is the most that any sensible person should hope for. If we have a No vote now, the country is finished. Within a decade there would be nothing left. For the Maritimes, it means the possibility of joining the United States. As for Quebec, I think they would be far worse off than they are right now.
MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, a Toronto native, currently a London-based television host and columnist for the Observer I am depressed. Canadians of my generation have spent their entire adult lives in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Like everybody else, I
think it is a waste of a generation. I read the text that appeared in the papers in early October. I just felt that there was a very, very deep conflict between the rights given to the Québécois and the idea of equality rights for all Canadians. It might be time to call Quebec’s bluff. I am sympathetic to them, but we can’t keep pissing around with this. This might be the time to say ‘All right, become independent. But don’t count on us to bail you out. Independence means just that.’
TANTOO CARDINAL, an Anzac, Alta., native, actress and Indian rights activist living in Arcadia, Calif.
It’s been a long fight to get Canadian governments to recognize our right to govern ourselves. But it won’t mean much unless we have the guarantee that it will be government on our terms and not dependent on whether other people like how we govern ourselves. I am interested to see what the people in the communities have to say. I am with my people, whatever they decide.
MARGARET ATWOOD, writer, Toronto I am still undecided. I feel that I am a representative confused person. People don’t know what question they are actually being asked to vote on and some people will vote on questions that they are not being asked. They also cannot predict the consequences of this one way or the other. If I were the editor, I’d say: ‘This needs a rewrite.’ Is this a real referendum or just a glorified opinion poll? Nobody would buy a refrigerator this way.
JIM GRAY, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Hunter Exploration Ltd., Calgary I am very strongly in favor of voting Yes, because it is a good deal. The Charlottetown accord nicely meets the aspirations of 27 million people living in different regions of the country. Nobody got everything they wanted; as a supporter of a Triple-E Senate, I can appreciate that. I just want us to get on with building this country. Voting No will set the country back, blur its own image. We are constitutionally battle-weary.
ROBERT MACNEIL, a Montreal native and co-host of the U.S. Public Broadcasting System ’s MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour in New York City I sometimes feel that if all the people outside Canada who know and admire Canada were voting, the result would be an overwhelming Yes. The logic of Canada as a nation, viewed from outside the country, always seems to make 10 times more sense than it does inside. And anything that threatens it, seems to be 10 times sillier when viewed from the outside. I think Canada makes a hell of a lot of sense as a g nation—with French Canada in it. I think it í makes more sense that way than as two I nations.
% JACQUES GODIN, actor, Montreal I I’m voting No because I don’t think the Char“ lottetown agreement gives Quebec enough powers to protect its special identity. Quebec needs the power to maintain control over its destiny in every field. And it’s not just language and culture—it includes immigration, employment, job training, social programs of every sort. Ever since Confederation, Quebec has been gradually losing control. And I think this agreement is just one more step in the same direction.
LORNE MICHAELS, a Toronto native and executive producer of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, New York City I came of age in the 1960s, when all the talk was about the last part of the 20th century belonging to Canada. Lester Pearson was Prime Minister and Canadians were very outço ward-looking about their role in the world. Over the past 15 years, the debate has turned 3 inward. The big discussions all seem to be I about Quebec. I appreciate why the French I value their culture. But there is probably a way z that can be found for them to stay, if for nothing § else than an economic partnership. □
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