Friday, February 19, 2010

The Worst Quebecker?

A couple of years ago The Beaver had a lively feature in which it asked a number of historians to identify "The Worst Canadian."

I think this guy deserves a nomination as the worst Quebecker. Even when he was at the peak of adulation leading the Yes forces in the 1995 Quebec referendum, I found myself nauseated by the spectacle of a well-connected lawyer and politician, someone who had made his way in the world on favours from powerful patrons at every turn, putting on the "Nous sommes opprimés, nous sommes humiliés" persona. A less oppressed guy than Lucien Bouchard I never saw in my life, I thought, no matter how well it seemed to go over in Quebec at the time. It was then that I decided sovereignty might still be a political force but was no longer intellectually respectable and was doomed.

The same kind of selfish, insincere, self-important air Bouchard conveyed in the 1990s comes off from his recent cruel and dismissive comments about the party and the movement that raised him so high.
"I don't know what will happen 50 years from now. But I do know that Pauline Marois is not announcing a referendum, because it's not possible to hold one," Mr. Bouchard said.

He said he jumped head first into the 1995 referendum "not even checking if there was water in the pool."

He said Quebec came out weakened in the process. "There's no referendum in sight and I don't want to suffer another defeat. In the meantime, we have a lot to do."

He argued that had Jacques Parizeau followed his strategy, the outcome would have been different in 1995.
Bouchard may well be right about all this -- except the last silly claim.

But his remarks do him no honour. A lot of people devoted their whole lives to that cause; one might think Bouchard would have the decency to think of that. The independence movement is down, but reading his remarks, it seems even I have more respect for it and what it meant for a generation of Quebeckers than their over-protected, over-privileged former leader who has now "moved on." He didn't know if there was "water in the pool"? What the hell was he doing in politics, except serving his own ego, if he did not know what the status of the sovereignty movement was in 1995?

I thought Bernard Landry sounded like a dinosaur when he spoke in Toronto last fall. But at least he believed in something.
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