Few people have been as intimately involved with Brian Mulroney’s political highs and lows as Lucien Bouchard. It was the outspoken Quebec nationalist, a friend of Mulroney’s since their days at Laval University in the early 1960s, who crafted Mulroney’s now-famous 1984 election campaign speech in Sept-Iles, in which he called for constitutional reconciliation between Quebec and the rest of Canada. And it was Bouchard who angrily resigned from Mulroney’s Conservative cabinet in 1990 and founded the separatist Bloc Québécois after the Prime Minister appeared willing to soften the Meech Lake constitutional accord, which proclaimed Quebec a distinct society. In light of that stormy end to a long friendship, political observers held their breath last week as Bouchard, 53, released
his first book: an autobiography entitled A visage découvert (“Unveiled”). But the book, an examination of Bouchard’s personal evolution rather than a political blockbuster, failed to create the widely anticipated sensation. Said Bouchard at his book launch in Ottawa: “I did not want to cause pain for anyone. I left out some of the most intimate conversations. I really tried to be objective.”
Still, even Bouchard acknowledged that he wrote the 377-page book—-at the moment available only in French—out of the “purely egotistical need to retrace my own footsteps.” And although he claimed that he tried to be as modest as possible in his self-portrayal, his healthy ego is evident throughout. At one point, he describes with obvious relish an occasion when Mulroney introduced him to President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, as “Lucien Bouchard, the most eloquent FrenchCanadian I know.” But the book contains touchingly candid moments as well. Bouchard recounts the humiliation of campaigning in the 1988 Lac-St-Jean byelection, after Mulroney
had convinced him to enter federal politics, when he discovered that few voters knew who he was or even that the campaign was on. As for his two-year tenure as a federal Tory, all of it served in the cabinet, Bouchard acknowledges that he had only one ambition: to further Quebec’s goals.
Like Bouchard’s speeches, the book is entertaining and well-crafted. Still, it can be disappointing. There is little that has not already been disclosed about the heartwrenching break with Mulroney (the two men are still not on speaking terms). And Quebecers seeking advice on their political future from one of their most popular politicians may also feel let down. Said Bouchard: “People might have expected a political manifesto—like René Lévesque’s—but I felt more comfortable re-examining the steps that led me to where I am now.” That decision has clearly occasioned a healthy sigh of relief in Tory political circles.
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