CANADA/SPECIAL REPORT

SPEAKING OUT

Quebecers debate the fate of the province—and the country

August 1 1994
CANADA/SPECIAL REPORT

SPEAKING OUT

Quebecers debate the fate of the province—and the country

August 1 1994

SPEAKING OUT

Quebecers debate the fate of the province—and the country

It’s summertime, and the conventional wisdom is that Quebecers have tuned out politics until the beach no longer beckons. But in a series of interviews conducted on the eve of a key provincial election, Maclean’s correspondents Mark Cardwell and Christina Wolaniuk found that Quebecers remain animated—if sometimes ambivalent—about the choices facing them. A sampling of opinion:

François de Carufel, 36, is a sex therapist and director of the Centre de Consultation Laurier in Montreal:

“I am voting for the Parti Québécois [PQ], first on the mandate for separation and second because I want a new government. Even if the PQ wasn’t for separation, I would still be voting for them just to eject the Liberals from power. With all the taxes we have, it’s not too attractive to live in Quebec right now.

“I like English people very much and all other nationalities. Separation is not racism against anglophones, it is the desire to keep an eye on our own affairs. I believe it [separation] will mean a drop in our standard of living. But in the end, it will be like owning and living in our own home instead of settling for a rented apartment. We will be led and managed by our own kind of people, Quebecers, and that is the principal idea.”

Jocelyn Simard, 36, is an insurance salesman and municipal councillor in St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, a village of 2,200 people 40 km east of Quebec City:

‘"With only two parties to choose from, we really don’t have a hell of a lot of choice here in Quebec. I’m a Péquiste by nature. I was a strident separatist in the 1970s, I voted in favor of sovereignty-association in 1980 and I voted for the Bloc Québécois [BQ] last fall. But I have to admit that I’m going to vote Liberal for the first time. I want leaders who are willing and able to do what they say. I think Daniel Johnson showed a lot of balls by making so many [spending] cuts and privatizing so many things just before an election.

“I’m proud to say I’m a Canadian. It’s just that our views on how the country should be run are so different. I voted BQ because I wanted to be heard in Ottawa. It was the same damn thing for westerners who voted Reform. My vote was just as valid as theirs. We’ll always have regional parties in Canada because alienated areas will want to fight centralizing powers from time to time. But it’s my country, warts and all.”

Karen Macdonald, 33, is one of a rare breed: an anglophone bom in Quebec City. She is also owner and publisher of the weekly Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, Quebec City’s only English newspaper, and host of a daily public affairs show on CKMI Quebec City’s only English television station:

“I’m convinced the Parti Québécois is going to win the election. But that shouldn’t

worry people because, like everyone else in North America, Quebecers are simply dissatisfied with the way the government is being run. They want change. At the same time, however, I honestly believe that people here do not want tumultuous change. They want life to continue as they know it. As a result, any referendum on separation won’t go through. It’s as simple as that.

“Canada has always been an uneasy alliance, a reluctant gathering of people from

different regions with different concerns. But it’s worked because Canadians have always been able and willing to compromise. I think perhaps we’re losing sight of that reality.”

Florent Harvey, 40, is an accident prevention counsellor with Hydro Quebec in Montreal:

“I’m not an indépendantiste. But I do want sovereignty for Quebec. The federal system is just too big and sloppy; we’re lost in an administrative quagmire. Up until the 1970s, Canada was a big, prosperous country with more than enough to go around. That’s not the case any more. And why the hell should we have to pay for others?

“I’ll definitely vote for independence in a referendum. And the succeeding process will be a smooth one. There won’t be any reduction in our quality of life. There won’t be any war, ethnic cleansing or terrorism.

“If the PQ loses the election or the referen-

dum, well, it will be a setback. But the sovereignty idea will continue and will eventually come to finition.”

Aldo Mazza, 42, was bom in Calabria,

Italy, but has lived in Quebec for 21 years. A percussionist for the Montreal-based band Répercussion, he speaks fluent English, French, Italian and Spanish:

“I’m probably one of those people who is bored with the whole thing [Quebec separatism], the question has been overdone for me. Quebec is really already an independent state. We handle our cultural affairs on our own. We have our own star system in the pop world. Quebec supports its own artists.

“There are hidden agendas amongst our people who are screaming for separation. I just don’t trust them because I think this is a great place to live. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of ignorance because we are just not being told the whole story.

“I think this duality [between Frenchand English-Canadians] is fantastic. It’s been badly managed and badly perceived and it has been used as a political football, but I think we have the [opportunity] for incredible creativity, ingenuity, and we will spoil it all by making emotional moves.”

Denis Amyot, 36, is co-owner of one of Quebec City’s biggest and best-known restaurants, Le Bonaparte:

“If the PQ wins the election and the referendum and manages to negotiate separation, so be it. I think it will be a good thing in the long term and an immediate relief after the endless fights and discussions we’ve had over the issue. But that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of separation.

“The issue behind the separatist cause is an honorable one—fighting to save one’s culture. At the same time, however, it just doesn’t seem a valid enough argument in favor of splitting up the country. To be honest, I’m still confused. Some days I’m 70-per-cent federalist; other days I’m 70-per-cent separatist. Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Canadians are generally open to new ideas, but that seems to be changing. There’s a lack of communication between regions. It’s like everybody has already got their speeches ready in advance and they don’t listen to what the other side is saying. All areas of the country have to listen, learn and accept.”