Did Parizeau go voluntarily, or was he putsched?


Friday, April 02, 2004
Only Jacques Parizeau knows why he resigned the day after the referendum, and chances are he'll take the truth to his grave. But Pierre Duchesne's unauthorized biography Le régent sheds a fascinating light on a chain of events that cost the sovereignty option its most determined warrior.
Duchesne's book raises a vital question: Was Monsieur's decision more about avoiding an coming putsch than an act of contrition for his contentious remark on "money and ethnic votes"?
Duchesne writes the morning after the referendum, Deputy Premier Bernard Landry and Guy Chevrette asked for Parizeau's resignation at a meeting of the priorities committee. The current kerfuffle as to whether Landry called Parizeau directly to demand he resign or that he begged Monsieur to be appointed interim premier is but a footnote in this saga.
If anything, Landry probably didn't beg, knowing Lucien Bouchard would inevitably take over. As for the phone call to Parizeau, whatever was said, what matters is Landry admits to having asked him to leave during the committee meeting.
The rush to oust Parizeau was such Chevrette flew to Ottawa that same evening to talk with Bouchard. Others, such as special adviser Jean-François Lisée, also wanted Monsieur to leave.
To justify their trigger-fast reaction, Lisée and Landry now contend Parizeau's staying was untenable because of his referendum speech and that he already had pretaped an interview saying he'd resign if he lost. So their insistence he leave, they say, had no bearing on his decision.
If Parizeau's decision had truly been unequivocal - and it may well have been in his mind - why did Landry and others feel the need to demand so aggressively he resign and to argue his referendum speech was the reason for it?
Could it be regardless of his pre-taped interview and given the close results, Parizeau could have been persuaded to stay if he had the full support of his priorities committee?
It's plausible Parizeau's decision to leave was strengthened by what happened in that committee and he felt he wouldn't survive the next weeks facing the rejection of some of the most powerful members of his government and the overwhelming support Bouchard had, even among some of Parizeau's closest supporters.
In the charged atmosphere of that committee meeting, could it be the "incredible cruelty" of the exchanges - as Pauline Marois reports in Duchesne's book - was the straw that broke the leader's back? Perhaps Monsieur persisted in his decision to leave in face of an apprehended putsch that would pave the way for the charismatic Bouchard.
Duchesne's book also takes a look at what might explain, at least in part, the anger Parizeau expressed during the infamous referendum speech that Landry, Chevrette and Lisée would use the next day as an excuse to demand he leave.
No adviser in the Bunker had truly prepared him for a loss, either politically or emotionally. When the results came in, Lisée had to rush to write a short speech for Parizeau following the defeat. Lisée gave that speech to Duchesne to publish, surely hoping all would rush to say how serene and responsible it was, compared with Parizeau's improvised remarks.
And everyone did. On Wednesday, Landry went as far as to say: "I think Parizeau should have read the Lisée text. That would have been better for him, for our cause, for Quebec and for everyone." Not quite.
Parizeau was wise shove that speech into his pocket and ignore it. Its content probably would have fed his anger even more because Lisée's speech went against all Parizeau had fought for so hard.
If Parizeau had used Lisée's speech, he would have invited Quebecers to use the close results as a negotiating tool to win from Ottawa the recognition of Quebec as a "people." Just as in his 2000 book, Sortie de secours, Lisée presented a demand for renewed federalism, not independence.
"Today, my friends, the Quebec people signalled that it will never accept anything else than being considered as a people. Never will it accept to be a province, equal and normalized." It went on: "Today, I did not receive a mandate to modify Quebec's status. But I did not receive the mandate to be satisfied with Quebec's current status."
Can anyone imagine Parizeau begging Canada to recognize Quebec as a people? He never did because he chose independence instead.
This week, Lisée said after the results came in, they were all looking toward the future, except Parizeau. But Parizeau was. It's just he saw independence as the future, not the recognition of Quebec as a people.
In Francine Pelletier's documentary on Parizeau, Monsieur summarizes the profound distaste he has for "soft-sovereignist" positions like the ones found in Lisée's speech, Bouchard's inaction or Landry's confederal union.
More telling, he put those positions on an equal footing with federalist ones as far as the negative impact they've had on his work toward independence: "All my life, I had against me both federalists and soft sovereignists. That's a lot of people!"
On the morning of his resignation, it was precisely those "soft sovereignists" who came calling for his head.

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