Getting to know Jacques Parizeau
Yesterday afternoon, Gazette news editor Sara Marett discussed issues affecting all Canadians surrounding the future of Quebec with former Parti Québecois leader Jacques Parizeau.
Gazette: You have entitled your lecture, "The Future of Canada and Quebec." What kind of message are you hoping to bring to university students the people who will shape the future of this country?
Parizeau: I was a university professor for most of my life and I feel very at ease speaking with students. I don't make public appearances very often, but in the past year I have had invitations from universities and colleges all over North America.
The future brings a battle for the minds of Quebeckers. At the present time, for reasons that can be understood it is a shouting match between the two sides.
There won't be a referendum in Quebec for the next two, two and a half years. If the "yes" vote is the majority we know very well on both sides what will happen.
Following the 1995 referendum, you made remarks justifying the outcome of the vote that many found inappropriate. How do you respond to people calling you a racist because of these remarks?
Parizeau: By the time something has been repeated so often that it belongs to the political correctness of the time, you let it run its course.
In politics it is usually better to win than to lose. When you lose, all kinds of things happen and things will be blown out of proportion.
We lost by 26,000 votes out of 5 million, so it was very close. So, I made remarks saying we lost because of two things: money and the ethnic vote. God, the uproar!
That love-in of Quebeckers by the rest of Canada before the 1995 referendum cost the government more than the "no" side and the "yes" side were allotted to spend during the entire referendum campaign together. So, I pray that I be allowed to mention money.
Secondly, the ethnic votes well, never have we seen among the anglophones and the allophones (people who speak at home a language other than french or English) such little support for sovereignty it vanished.
In some areas in Quebec where there are no french-speaking Quebeckers we saw zero "yes" votes something unheard of. I expected we would get maybe eight or nine per cent from the anglophones and allophones and it was about three per cent. So, I stated something that I think was realistic, but oh, the flack I got!
What are your thoughts on the recent unity meeting amongst Canada's premiers to discuss the fate of Quebec?
Parizeau: I'm flabbergasted. We have a psycho-drama in Canada over the word "distinct," as in "distinct society," which has lasted for over two years. Some of the most famous lawyers of Canada were brought to tell people the "distinct society" concept has no legal repercussions of any kind.
Now it is decided Quebec is "unique but equal" and I say, my God, they haven't understood a word we've said. It's irrelevant we are all exhausted by the play on words, the constitutional renewals.
It's more simple than that there is only one question to be asked: will Quebeckers decide to remain in Canada?