Quebec Studies

Québec Today: Sovereignty Without the Powers of a Sovereign State

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 1–11.

Abstract

QUEBEC TODAY: SOVEREIGNTY WITHOUT THE POWERS OF A SOVEREIGN STATE* Lise Bissonnette During the referendum about the status of Québec in May 1980, when we were discussing whether or not to give our provincial government "a mandate to negociate" political sovereignty for Québec with a form of economic association with the rest of Canada, a well-known humorist summarized our eternal internal fights. The people of Québec, he said, knew clearly what they wanted: "Un Québec indépendant, dans un Canada uni." — "An independent Québec, inside a united Canada." Five years later, this humorous contradiction still is a very good description of our collective mood. We love to scare English Canada, but never to the point of saying goodbye. Ac­ cordingly, the most interesting political phenomenon of the last months in Québec has been the swift recovery, in the polls, of the governing party, the Parti québécois, until recently a separatist party. As long as the PQ, in its policy platform, ad­ vocated presenting sovereignty as the major issue for the up­ coming election in 1985, the party was trailing the Québec Liberal Party, the official opposition, by around 40 points in the polls. Then in January, a special convention of the Parti québécois dropped this electoral platform, and decided to keep the sovereignty option only as an "insurance policy" for the future. A few cabinet ministers resigned in protest, a few hundred members left the party, but the polls went up, * ference held in dated to These remarks were originally prepared for delivery at the con­ of the Northeast (now American) Council for Québec Studies Amherst, Massachusetts, in October 1 9 8 4 . They have been up­ reflect more recent political developments.

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Bissonnette, Lise