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Saskatchewan Considered Separation, Roy Romanow Reveals

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Former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow says the province considered separation. | Planet Observer/UIG via Getty Images

While the referendum campaign was gearing up in Quebec in 1995, a team of Saskatchewan officials headed by then-Premier Roy Romanow considered the possibility that Saskatchewan might leave Canada in the event of a Yes win.

The tantalizing footnote to Saskatchewan history is contained in a new book by Toronto Star columnist (and CBC At Issue panelist) Chantal Hébert that's being released Sept. 2.

In an excerpt of The Morning After: The Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was, published this week on the Maclean's magazine website, it's revealed that Romanow set up a special committee to assess options for Saskatchewan if Quebec were to separate.

The committee was funded outside the Treasury Board, according to theMaclean's article, and until this week, the public had no idea it existed.

Ultimately, the No side won a narrow victory in the referendum vote.

Romanow never spoke publicly about the committee's work, but apparently one of the options it looked at was Saskatchewan separating from the rest of Canada.

Also on the table was the possibility that the province would form an alliance with Alberta and British Columbia to leave the country.

A third possibility looked at whether Saskatchewan might be annexed to the United States. The committee also examined the possibility of Saskatchewan adopting the U.S. dollar.

"In the eventuality of a Yes vote, clearly you need to examine all your options," Romanow said in a Maclean's excerpt from the book.

Details about the Saskatchewan committee were revealed to Hébert by Roy Romanow about 18 months ago.

Other revelations about the 1995 referendum

According to Maclean's, the book contains a number of other surprises on the period surrounding the 1995 referendum.

Hébert's book focuses primarily on the impact that that a Yes victory could have had. It also concludes that no party in Canada of any political stripe had a coherent plan to manage the possible independence of Quebec.

Hébert, with the assistance of former Liberal and Bloc Québéçois MP Jean Lapierre, interviewed close to 20 key figures from the referendum period, including Jacques Parizeau, Jean Chrétien and Preston Manning.

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