Bouchard's manifesto overshadows PQ debate
Hardline leadership candidate links document's proposals to 'Freemasons'
October 27, 2005
An all-candidates debate in the Parti Quebecois leadership race was haunted last night by a former PQ premier who wasn't even there.
Lucien Bouchard's manifesto, Pour un Quebec lucide - A Clear-eyed Vision - was front-page news last week. But it left leading Pequistes ill at ease.
The counterattack came last night in Rimouski, as Jean-Claude St-Andre, a hardline nationalist, took a run at the former premier, saying Quebecers should, indeed, be lucid.
"But not lucid like Lucien and his Freemasons," he said, without justifying his conclusion that the group of 12 business, academic, and other leaders in their fields, including La Presse journalist Andre Pratte, are linked to the masonic order.
Earlier, at a candidates meeting in La Pocatiere, when asked about Bouchard's economic manifesto, Pauline Marois called it a "sombre" view of Quebec.
She said the problems it cites, such as Quebec's aging population, are real. But while Quebec's birth rate is low, other countries have surplus population and Quebec should consider boosting the number of immigrants it accepts.
"I have a positive view of the future," she said.
The Bouchard manifesto calls for measures to pay down Quebec's $117-billion debt, increase university tuition, and replace income tax by consumption taxes.
"I don't believe these are the right measures," Marois said.
Louis Bernard, another candidate at the La Pocatiere meeting, said the manifesto is a rehash of known problems. "This document adds nothing," he said. "If it hadn't been signed by Lucien Bouchard, it would have been on page 28 (of the newspapers)."
Pierre Dubuc, the candidate of a left-wing union group within the PQ, said people have left Quebec's regions because multinational corporations have stripped them of natural resources.
He proposed a migration of people from Quebec's cities as a way to restore the economy of Quebec's regions.
Dubuc used his closing remarks to call on Quebecers to recognize that aboriginal people have rights in Quebec's regions, recalling the attacks by non-
Indians on a Mohawk caravan across the Mercier Bridge, a low point of the 1990 Oka Crisis.
"Never again," Dubuc said.
Last night's debate, the fifth in a series of seven, focused on the concerns of people living in Quebec's outlying regions.
Since all candidates support the idea that Quebec should become sovereign and that its regions now get a raw deal in confederation, there was little conflict among them last night.
But at a news conference after the debate, Bernard, the only candidate who opposes a section of the PQ program calling for a unilateral declaration of independence, warned, "I think if there is a rupture, that will justify the federal government in not sitting down at the table. They will say, 'They have already declared their sovereignty. We are going to continue enforcing our laws.' "
Bernard noted Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe shares his moderate view, adding that, after a Yes vote, there will be uncertainty. "There is going to be pressure on the dollar, investment will be suspended and that will force Canada to sit down at the bargaining table."
The debates are not broadcast on television, but can be seen on the Internet in a webcast format.
Between Nov. 13 and Nov. 15, all 137,000 card-carrying PQ members will be able to vote in a telephone ballot.