A sovereign Quebec would use the Canadian dollar, create a Quebec passport and have free flow of people, goods and services with no borders.
Sovereignty would eliminate overlapping services, end intrusions from Ottawa into Quebec’s affairs, and create new dynamics on the economic front.
If these arguments, which have crept into the Quebec election campaign, look familiar, they are. These issues and others like them were at the heart of the 1994 campaign, in which then Parti Québécois leader Jacques Parizeau promised to hold a referendum on sovereignty. It was defeated the next year.
“A referendum will be held within eight to 10 months of my election,” Mr. Parizeau repeated during the campaign. Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard tried to persuade Mr. Parizeau to stop pushing his referendum agenda for fear of scaring away soft nationalist and undecided voters.
Current PQ Leader Pauline Marois has no such plan. In fact, her election platform commits the PQ to holding a referendum at “the time the government deemed to be appropriate.” Ms. Marois has refused to say how she would determine that and have no referendum agenda.
But the presence of powerful media baron Pierre-Karl Péladeau as a PQ separatist candidate has breathed new life into the sovereignty movement and brought political independence to the forefront of the campaign, raising issues Ms. Marois tried to avoid in the past.
While campaigning on Wednesday in Quebec City, the PQ Leader pointed to several studies from the early 1990s that said Quebec would face no obstacle to using the Canadian dollar. While a sovereign Quebec could use any currency it chose, to influence monetary policy it would have to negotiate with Ottawa. Open borders would also not be a unilateral choice.
“Obviously, we may wish to get a seat at the Bank of Canada, but we would accept the Canadian monetary policies,” Ms. Marois said when asked if a sovereign Quebec would keep the loonie.
Ms. Marois has yet to conduct studies on how a sovereign Quebec would deal with issues such as the currency, the debt or even citizenship and passports. Most research on these subjects is from the last referendum and outdated.
“We will conduct numerous studies on these questions and bring a number of proposals that will deal with them. But we are not there yet,” Ms. Marois said.
Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said Ms. Marois is in a dream world.
“The PQ always tries to take us to an imaginary world, Alice in Wonderland, where everything is going to be so great. No borders, no passport, it’s fantastic. Everybody’s going to be great friends,” Mr. Couillard said.
“Of course, in an imaginary world, you don’t need borders. … They’re trying to drag Quebeckers into their fantasy. She said herself: Minimum of five years of disturbances. We’ve had enough of this mythology, enough of this false reality.”
False or not, when a businessman as influential as Mr. Péladeau throws his support behind Quebec sovereignty, it goes a long way to restoring prestige and hope for a cause that long lay dormant.
Ms. Marois is hoping her party can ride that enthusiasm to a majority. Without a commitment to hold a referendum, Ms. Marois is not obliged to explain the complexities of a referendum agenda. If the PQ is returned to power, she can push off the debate, perhaps when she tables the white paper she has promised on the future of Quebec.
But Mr. Couillard said the PQ produces more evidence every day that the “referendum machinery is already engaged.” Citing a report in Le Soleil, he said Ms. Marois would launch the white paper on sovereignty within the first year.
“It’s the lobster trap Jacques Parizeau talked about. Get Quebeckers in the trap, and we close the door,” Mr. Couillard said, referring to a controversial quote from the former PQ leader.
In 1995, Mr. Parizeau was quoted in La Presse as having described in a private meeting a plan to trap Quebeckers into independence like “lobsters in boiling water.”