Quebec Studies

Foreword: Two Years After the Referendum: Whither Quebec?

Quebec Studies (1997), 24, (1), 1–5.

Abstract

1 Foreword Two Years After the Referendum: Whither Quebec? by Richard Vengroff, University of Connecticut In the wake of the 1995 referendum a very significant number of impres­ sive articles, books, and papers on Quebec's future were published. Many of these works provide important insights into the factors that led to the referen­ dum, that influenced, directly or indirectly, the outcome, and that may help determine the future. The reader might well ask what is the marginal utility of yet another such collection of essays. Why is Quebec Studies responding with a special issue two years after the fact? The answer is that there appears to be a growing gap between those studies conducted in the immediate wake of the referendum and changes occurring over the medium term, the current interreferendum period. This issue of Quebec Studies brings together the work of sixteen scholars from diverse backgrounds and at various points in their pro­ fessional careers. It is dedicated primarily to analysis in the social sciences, analysis that brings in both traditional methods and theoretical perspectives and some of the most current methodological approaches. This combination, while not unique, does provide a basis for expanding our understanding of some of the social, philosophical, and political forces playing themselves out at the end of the millennium. The long term impact of these forces may be no less profound than those which served to shape Quebec society during the height of the Quiet Revolution. The 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty set in motion processes of change in political leadership, in economic and social policies in the Province and in Canada as a whole, and in the approaches, both strategic and tactical, to sovereignty and national unity. The 1997 federal elections brought national unity once again to the forefront of issues facing Canadians. The subsequent discus­ sions among Provincial Premiers, excluding Quebec (Bouchard refuses to par­ ticipate in such discussions) helped launch the search for a new initiative and a more effective approach. Lucien Bouchard responded to these events by stating that 1997 would mark the last federal elections in which Quebec would participate. He has promised that by the start of the new millennium, January 1, 2001, Quebec will be a sover­ eign country. To meet this goal, a provincial election will have to be held in order to provide the Parti Québécois with the new mandate it requires before it puts independence on the ballot once more. The promised provincial election, prob­ ably to be held in September 1998, will be followed (assuming a PQ victory) by Quebec's third sovereignty referendum, to be scheduled for some time in late 1999. The PQ's promise to adhere to the accords reached with the Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) and the Bloc Québécois (BQ), according to which a yes vote in a referendum would be followed by up to a year of negotiations with Canada on some form of partnership, remains a central part of the sovereignist plan (see Lachapelle). Toward the end of 1995, discussion turned openly to development of a Plan B, a new and tougher approach by Ottawa to the issue of Quebec independence. This "tough love" initiative includes court challenges to future referenda, ongo­ ing speculation about the partition of Quebec, the possibility of the denial of

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Vengroff, Richard