If the Parti Québécois wants to have a future, it will need to place hopes for another sovereignty referendum on hold for a while, says MNA Jean-François Lisée.
In a blog post published Monday morning, he argued that the provincial election last spring handily defeated any notion that a referendum was a blip on most Quebecers’ screens.
Finding out that less than 30 per cent of Quebecers share the PQ’s opinion that the province should be its own country was a wake-up call for the party, Lisée wrote.
Now the PQ has two options, Lisée wrote: Remain oblivious to the current sentiment among Quebecers and essentially hand the provincial Liberals the keys to the National Assembly for years to come, or back off on referendum talk for the time being and work on making sovereignty an appealing idea.
The second option means promising not to hold a referendum if the PQ comes to power in 2018.
Lisée joins his voice to fellow PQ MNA and potential leadership candidate Bernard Drainville, who last week said he would not hold a referendum in his first mandate if he were elected.
Lisée has indicated that he may also seek party leadership.
The PQ is expected to select its new leader in the spring of 2015.
Lisée on Daybreak
Lisée visited CBC Daybreak's studios Monday morning to further explain his argument and reasoning. Here is a transcribed excerpt from that interview:
Mike Finnerty: Can you outline your position?
Jean-Francois Lisée: Clearly, on April 7 Quebecers told us something very loud. They said that they were in no mood for a referendum or any move towards sovereignty at the present time. That’s hard to hear for an independentist like me, but you have to hear it and you have to decide, “OK, so what do we do about this?”
Do we stop being for independence? No. It’s like freedom of expression, freedom of association. We think it’s a great idea, but there’s just not enough people agreeing with us at this point to be able to move forward as a government. So I say, if the election were to be held let’s say next year, my position would be, "OK, we’ll tell Quebecers that we will make no use of the government of Quebec during the mandate in any way to try to bring about sovereignty."
[...] I also think that the PQ government builds the Quebec nation that one day will be independent, whereas the Couillard government, its theme is to have a province that is at the average of Canada. They use this phrase, "Well you need to be the average." Well I don’t want to be an average Canadian. I want to be a great Quebecer.
MF: In a PQ mandate, nothing to promote sovereignty — so no referendum. Sectoral referendums, or consultations…?
JFL: You have to be clear as spring water. Either you say, "If you elect us, we will do everything in our power to bring about sovereignty and then you run on this, you make your case on this, and you win on this and you do it." Or you say, "If we’re elected, we’ll do nothing with the government."
I mean, we are independentists, we’ll talk about it, the Parti Québécois will continue its work of gaining more momentum in the opinion and that’s our task — to have more people in favour of independence and, at some point, do it. But we have to be clear one way or the other. What I say is, as we stand now, of course there’s no way that we can present, ask for a mandate to go towards sovereignty.
But the election will be in 2018, thanks to us because now we have regular dates for elections. So I say, let’s have the Parti Québécois, its members, its leader, make this determination in one year before the election, whether the door is open or closed.
If things change dramatically, then we can be more bold. But if things are as they stand, my position will be, let’s have a good government that will build the Quebec nation but let’s tell Quebecers during that first mandate we will not use the power of the government to further our ideal.
MF: Some people thought the Drainville charter, the charter of Quebec values, was an instrument to move Quebec towards sovereignty. Would that be a thing you would rule out, for instance, and measure like it, as a means to try to prepare Quebec for independence?
JFL: Well, I would rule out using laws like the charter to get into the process that leads to sovereignty. I would obviously not rule out taking decisions in favour of Quebec that people could challenge at the Supreme Court and we’ll see what the court says, but certainly not as a means to go to sovereignty.
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