More attention than he deserves

Quebecers are too busy working to listen to Bouchard's gloom-and-doom sermons

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From another gloom-and-doom sermon on the mount from Lucien Bouchard to the unveiling of Robert Bourassa's monument in Quebec City, this week brought out the worst and the best in Quebec politics.
On Tuesday - the day the National Assembly reconvened with Andre Boisclair asking his first question as leader of the opposition - Bouchard stole the limelight from his former party and the legislature he once sat in as premier.
This time, St. Lucien, taking his usual moralizing tone, claimed Quebecers aren't working enough. Like every word the man utters in public, it sent the media into a frenzy.
Every open-line radio show made him its topic du jour with angry callers rejecting Bouchard's value judgment. Every network and newspaper, all the way to Toronto, got on the story. Reporters scrambled to interview experts for Wednesday's papers. Most of them contradicted Bouchard.
You'd think George W. Bush had just resigned or something. While the working habits of Quebecers, as Bouchard sees them, might be a hot topic of discussion for powerful businessmen and lawyers at cocktail parties, it remains a mystery why Bouchard's musings get more coverage than those of the actual premier.
We in the media get all excited when Bouchard speaks. But frankly, I suspect most people are too busy working - though not enough in St. Lucien's eyes - to give much thought to the various moralizing pronouncements he has been making for the past couple of years.
Yesterday, he went farther, denouncing Quebecers' alleged anti-Americanism.
Another former premier we also like to cover shot back. Jacques Parizeau put it in this ironic nutshell: "Once again, we Quebecers have disappointed Monsieur Bouchard. What a pity."
It seems that instead of observing his "devoir de reserve," Bouchard has chosen to become a high-profile spokesman for the most conservative fringe of the business milieu. It might make the Conseil du patronat happy, but Quebecers are bound to tune out if all Bouchard has to say comes straight out of its all-too familiar songbook.
Thank heavens, the week included a more uplifting note with the unveiling of Robert Bourassa's monument on the grounds of the National Assembly. Once Premier Jean Charest corrected the failure of the Liberal organizer in charge of the ceremony to invite former Parti Quebecois premiers, it made for an inspiring event that brought out the more endearing side of Quebec's tightly knit political class: its uncanny ability to rise above strict partisan lines when the time calls for it.
Ten years after he died, Bourassa, a four-term premier, was honoured for making French the official language of Quebec, adopting a charter of rights before Ottawa did, developing this land's amazing hydro power, fighting for Quebec's recognition in the constitution as a distinct society - perhaps his most painful failure - and many other accomplishments.
In 1990, at the onset of the Oka crisis that followed the failure of the Meech Lake accord, Bourassa put his own health on the line, delaying cancer treatments he urgently needed.
This is the kind of sacrifice few would make for any reason. But this is the kind of sacrifice Bourassa made because this was the kind of man he was.
The premier who looked like a boring accountant was, in fact, an intellectual obsessed with the economy. He loved Quebec profoundly in his own way with his own vision. He was no trickster.
What also set Bourassa apart was his humility and his kindness in a milieu where these two commodities are as rare as they are precious.
His statue's smile bears an uncanny resemblance to the one Bourassa wore in real life. It was as if he were showing how happy he was to be back where he belongs - near the legislature and the famed "bunker" from which he oversaw Quebec's destiny for 14 years.
Not too bad for "un p'tit gars de l'est."

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