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A Guide To The Principal Players in The Quebec Referendum

By Glenn Wanamaker


If you get a sense of déjà vu looking at the 1994 Parti Québecois referendum campaign organization, that's because it really is 1980 all over again.

The question will be changed and the political climate has evolved, but the stakes are the same, and so are many of the key players.

Jacques Parizeau, Bernard Landry, Guy Chevrette, Camille Laurin, Jean Garon, Jacques Brassard. Francois Gendron, Denis Lazure. Jacques Léonard, Jean-Pierre Jolivet, and behind-the-scenes advisor Louis Bernard were all there in 1980, and they're all back for a second try.

Even the late René Lévesque is still here in spirit. His name and his legacy are present in every major Jacques Parizeau speech. And his wishful words, "à la prochaine," delivered to saddened supporters on the night of that May 20th defeat, still serve as a guiding inspiration for long-time sovereigntists.

Most of the old guard is in Premier Parizeau's cabinet, including Landry, his right-hand man, Deputy Premier and International Affairs Minister.

But there are newish faces as well, such as Louise Beaudoin, the Inter-Governmental Affairs Minister, who's been around the constitutional table as much as the others, but always in the background.

She is also a member of Parizeau's inner cabinet, divided equally between men and women. The prominence of women on the front benches can be considered part of the referendum strategy, because women, like older people, anglophones, and allophones, are much less likely than male francophones to vote for separation.

Long-time labour leader Monique Simard, frequently heard across Canada as a CBC Radio political commentator, was also destined for cabinet, but she narrowly lost her bid in last Fall's election. Instead, she is playing a major organizing role as the party's vice-president.

Another important figure is Richard LeHir, former head of the Quebec Manufacturers Association and the PQ's best-known loose cannon. His job. as the Minister of Re-structuring, is to supervise research studies on the costs of federalism and the benefits of separation, which will serve as fodder for the referendum campaign.

Finance Minister Jean Campeau—co-chair of the Belanger-Campeau Commission that followed the failure of the Meech Lake Accord—is also front-and-centre.

Coincidentally, Michel Bélanger—the other half of the same Commission—is now the provincial Liberals' chief referendum organizer.

The Liberals though can't claim the same kind of referendum roots among their MNAs as the PQ.

Their 1980 Leader, Claude Ryan, has just retired; current Leader Daniel Johnson was then a Power Corporation vice-president and didn't win his first election until 1981; and Robert Bourassa was in political exile then and is in political retirement now. About the only familiar face on Liberal benches is former International Affairs Minister John Ciaccia.

The new Liberal voices are MNA Jean-Marc Fournier, a constitutional lawyer and advisor on the Bélanger-Campeau Commission. He's also a member of the party's Committee on the Evolution of Federalism, chaired by former MNA Maurice Richard, which will debate ideas on how to renew federalism, in case they need some for the campaign.

Former cabinet ministers André Bourbeau, Gérald Tremblay, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, Pierre Paradis and Christos Sirros are all major party voices. Quebec's newest party is Action Démocratique du Québec, whose young leader Mario Dumont holds their only seat in the National Assembly. The party polled about 6.5 per cent of the vote in the last election without a full slate of candidates, and was strong in the regions.

Its constitutional position, while criticized as fuzzy, has a growing appeal. It suggests a European-style partnership with Canada as an alternative to both outright separation and status-quo federalism. Part of the appeal is that it suggests compromise.

The Liberal "No" committee will be helped out by such groups as the Council for Canadian Unity, which calls itself a national non-partisan organization. It recently published a pocket-sized book of "Arguments", which deals with the principal issues, such as debt-sharing, use of the dollar, international recognition, and overlapping jurisdictions, in a handy point/counterpoint fashion, ideal for dinner table discussions.

With the Council's support, a young federalist group has appeared, called Generation 18-35, and has become vocal and omnipresent at forums involving young people.

In Montreal, various ethnic or allophone organizations, such as the Hellenic Congress of Quebec and the Italo-Canadian Congress, are being drawn into the debate.

The largest anglophone organization, often dubbed a Liberal farm team and which backed the federalist boycott of the sovereignty commissions, is Alliance Quebec, based in Montreal.

There are also English organizations in various regions, where English and French have a longer history of living in harmony, and they often take a less strident political position than Alliance Quebec. They include the Townshippers Association in the Eastern Townships, the Outaouais Alliance, the Chateauguay Valley English-Speaking Peoples Association, and the Committee for Anglophone Social Action in the Gaspe region.

Coalitions are also lining up on the "Yes" side, including Partenaires pour la souveraineté, one large umbrella group of unions, student organizations, the nationalist Société St. Jean Baptiste and le Mouvement national des québécois et québécoises. Solidarité Rurale, and various community groups.

Unions, such as la Fédération des travailleurs du Québec (FTQ), la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), la Centrale de l'enseignement du Québec (teachers' union), and la Federation des infirmiers/infirmieres (nurses’ union), are also mobilizing a regional basis.

The one exception is la Centraled syndicats démocratiques (CSD), which is not taking a position on sovereignity.

The Quebec civil servants union, Syndicat de la fonction publique, he had to fend off criticism that it has become too cozy with the government because its president, Danielle-Maude Gosselin, chaired one of the region sovereignty commissions.
Another major player, l'Union de producteurs agricoles (UPA), had withdrawn previous support for sovereignty, and is now officially neutral.

On the business front, le Conseil de patronat, representing small business owners, is squarely on the federalish side, while the Quebec Chamber of Commerce is squarely on the fence. Undoubtedly, as the campaign progresses, business leaders will be under pressure to take public positions. However, one group has already been formed to keep the business world out of the debate. Called RESPEQ (le Réseau Solidarité, Prosperité Economique du Québec), the network is the idea of Rodrigue Biron, a partner in a firm specializing in business mergers and transactions.

In 1980, Biron was leader of the now defunct Union Nationale party, and was later a PQ cabinet minister. He believes it's in the interests of both federalist and sovereigntist business people to work together to prevent any kind of economic disruption, regardless of the referendum outcome.

Virtually all segments of Quebec society have been able to hone their strategies for this debate for many years. However, few are able to predict with any certainty the role that will be played by native people.

Both the Cree and the Inuit have indicated they will hold their own referendum, and chiefs from across Quebec, through the Assembly of First Nations, have vowed to take whatever steps necessary to ensure their status and rights are not altered without their consent.

Premier Parizeau is Responsible for Native Affairs, though his pointman is MNA David Cliche, who's developed some expertise in native and energy issues.

A major part of PQ strategy is focussed on the regions, where it knows it lost votes in the last election because of regional discontent.

In mid-Winter, 18 regional sovereignty commissions travelled to about 200 towns over a six-week period. They were ostensibly designed to discuss the government's draft legislation on sovereignty, but they also served a higher strategic function.

First, to root out Quebecers' deep-seated fears about separation so they could be addressed directly during the formal referendum campaign. Second, because the commissions were assured of wall-to-wall media coverage, to generate badly-needed passion. And third, to give the regions a chance to speak out.

The commissions were officially boycotted by federalists, but nonetheless, they served as a useful springboard into the referendum, and those who served on them picked up valuable insights.

While outright anti-sovereigntists were a rarity, many Commission members were selected because of their high profile or active community involvement.

The best-known Commission presidents were Marcel Masse, former Defence Minister in the Mulroney government, who chaired the Montreal regional commission, and Monique Vézina, another former Mulroney cabinet minister (she voted "yes" in 1980 but supported the Charlottetown Accord), who chaired the separate Senior Citizens' Commission.

Other well-known names included Quebec City Mayor Jean-Paul L'Allier, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister but a 1980 "Yes" supporter, and Danielle-Maude Gosselin, President of the union representing 45,000 Quebec civil servants.

But without a doubt, the really key players in the referendum campaign are the 15 per cent undecided, the ones the PQ refers to as "soft nationalists," the ones who hold victory in their hands. Find them along the campaign trail and you find your answer.



NOTE: (E) = also speaks English; (F) = also speaks French.

Secretariat: Sovereignty Commissions on the Future of Quebec - 418-644-1262.

National Assembly – General information: 418-643-7239.

Parti Québécois: Premier's office - 418-643-5321; Press attachée - Marie-Josée Gagnon (E), advisor - Jean-Francois Lisée (E).

Ministers: Bernard Landry (E). International Affairs - 418-649-23197 514-499-2180; Guy Chevrette (E), House leader & Municipal Affairs - 418-643-3805/418-691-2050; Louise Beaudoin (E), Inter-Government Affairs - 418-646-5950; Richard LeHir (E), Re-Structuring - 514-873-7556; Jean Campeau (E), Finance - 418-643-5270; Daniel Paillé (E), Industry - 418-691-5650; Francois Gendron, Natural Resources - 418-643-7295; David Cliche (E),MNA/Native Affairs - 418-643-7295.

Young péquistes: President, Eric Bedard - 514-526-3456.

National office: Monique Simard (E), first vice-president & Director-General - 514-270-5400.


Liberals: Leader's office - 418-643-2743; Press attaché - Martin Geoffroy (E); parliamentary aide, Pierre Pillion - 418-643-9013.

MNAs/critics: Jean-Marc Foumier (E). Constitution - 418-528-9478/514-699-4136; Christos Sirros (E), Native Affairs - 418-644-0520; Gerald Tremblay (E), Industry - 418-644-3219; André Bourbeau (E), Finance - 418-644-0093; Monique Gagnon-Tremblay, Employment - 418-644-2817; Pierre Paradis (E), House Leader - 418-643-1275; Russell Williams (F), Health & English services - 418-644-5986.

Others: Michel Bélanger (E), Referendum Committee Chairman - 514-288-4364; Youth Commission President, Claude-Eric Gagné (E) - 514-288-4364; Jacques Lamoureux (E), Liberal Party President, - 514-288-4364; Maurice Richard, former MNA and President of the Committee on the Evolution of Federalism - 514-288-4364.

Parti action démocratique du Quebec (PADQ): Leader's office - Mario Dumont (E) - 418-644-4560 / 418-868-0822; Jean Allaire (E), Party co-founder - 514-722-8098; Daniel Guertin, Communications, - 514-722-8098.

Council for Canadian Unity: President, Michel Vennat (E) – 514-843-4124. Generation 18-35: Annie Perrault (E) – 514-877-6482; Francois LeBel – 514-843-4945.
Chambre de Commerce du Québec: President, Nycol Pageau Goyette(E) – 514-844-9571.
Quebec Federation of Independent Business: Vice-president, Pierre Cleroux (E) –514-842-4321.
le Résau Solidarité, Prosperité Economique du Québec: Rodrigue Biron, Founder (E) - 5I4-393-1397 / 418-658-1666.


Unions: CSN - President Gérald Larose(E) - 514-598-2121.

FTQ - President Fernand Daoust - 514-527-8533.

CEQ - President Lorraine Page - 514-356-8888

SFPQ- President Danielle-Maude Gosselin - 418-623-2424

CSD - President Claude Gingras - 514-842-3801.

Union des producteurs agricoles: President Laurent Pellerin (E) - 514-679-0530.


Partenaires pour la souveraineté (coalition of pro-sovereignty groups): Solidarité Populaire - Luc Latraverse - 514-598-2139; Lise Blais - 514-598-2014.

Movement national des québécois et qébécoises: Louise Laurin. President; Renée Roy, Communications - 514-527-9891.

Alliance Quebec: Michael Hamelin, President (F), David Birnbaum. Executive-Director (F) - 514-875-2771.

The Townshippers Association: President David Morgan (F) - 819-566-5717.

Outaouais Alliance: President Dan McStravick - 819-777-0177.

Committee For Anglophone Social Action: President Lynden Bechervaise (F) - 418-368-2127.


Natives: Assembly of First Nations - Ghislain Picard, Quebec Regional Chief (E/F) - 418-842-5020;

Grand Council of the Cree -Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief (E) - 819-673-2600/613-761-1655; Bill Namagoose, Executive Director (E) - 514-861-5837; Romeo Saganash, Vice-President (E/F) - 418-694-2048.

Inuit - Zebedee Nungak, First Vice-president of Makivik Corporation (Inuit political and economic wing) - 514-634-8091/819-964-2925.

Innu (Montagnais) - Chief Armand MacKenzie (E/F) - 418-845-5182.

Mohawk-Kahnawake: Joe Norton, Grand Council Chief (E) - 514-632-7500; Billy Two Rivers, Chief (E);

Kanesatake: Jerry Peltier, Grand Council Chief (E) - 514-479-8373. Gary Carbonnell, Chief (E).

Huron-Wendat: Grand Council Chief Max Gros-Louis (E/F) - 418-843-3767.

Municipal: Union of Regional Municipal County Councils - 418-651-3343; President Jacinthe B. Simard (Mayor of Baie St. Paul) - 418-435-2205.

Union des municipalites du Québec - 418-694-1850.

Political scientists: Stéphane Dion (E), Université de Montréal - 514-343-6563; Léon Dion (E), Guy Laforest (E), Réjean Pelletier - Universite Laval - 418-656-2407; Louis Balthazar (E) Universite Laval-418-656-2235; Guy Lachapelle (E) Concordia University - 514-848-2106/2120.

Economists: Pierre Fortin (E) Université du Québec à Montréal - 514-987-8380; Pierre-Paul Proulx (E) Université de Montreal - 514-343-2401.

Constitutional law: Stephen Scott. McGill University - 514-398-6617; William Tetley, McGill University (& former Liberal Cabinet minister) - 514-398-6619; Jean-Pierre Derrienic (E), Université Laval - 418-656-7936.

Glenn Wanamaker is a freelance writer and broadcaster based in Quebec City.


Published in Parliamentary Names & Numbers Spring 1995


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