Posts Tagged ‘federalism’
Paul Wells’ review in MacLean’s of Chantal Hébert‘s new book on the 1995 Québec referendum, The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was astonishes me. It seems, after Hébert’s retelling, that hardly anyone involved in the question of national unity had any idea what they were doing, that every possibility was open. The idea of some sort of blundering towards catastrophe now does not seem implausible.
A team of Saskatchewan officials worked quietly to develop contingency plans in the event of a Yes vote in the 1995 Quebec referendum — options that included Saskatchewan following Quebec out of Canada, a new book reveals.
Roy Romanow, the premier of Saskatchewan at the time, never told his full cabinet about the secret committee’s work, Romanow told Chantal Hébert, author of The Morning After: The Quebec Referendum and the Day that Almost Was, to be published by Knopf Canada on Sept. 2. Maclean’s has obtained a copy of the book.
“Filed under the boring title of Constitutional Contingencies — a choice intended to discourage curiosity — [the Saskatchewan committee's] work was funded off the books, outside the provincial Treasury Board process, the better to ensure its secrecy,” Hébert writes.
The committee considered a lot of possibilities for the chaotic period Romanow anticipated after a Yes vote — including Saskatchewan seceding from Canada; a Western union of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia; abandoning the Canadian dollar to use the U.S. greenback; and even annexation of Saskatchewan, and perhaps other provinces, to the United States. “In the eventuality of a Yes vote, clearly you need to examine all your options,” Romanow says in the book.
The revelation that Romanow had set a contingency committee to work is one of several surprises in the book by Hébert, a columnist for the Toronto Star and Le Devoir L’actualité [you'd think I'd get that right on the first try - pw] and one of the country’s most prominent political commentators. She wrote The Morning After with assistance from Jean Lapierre, a former Liberal and Bloc Québécois MP and a leading Quebec pundit. The premise of the book is simple: they interviewed nearly 20 key or peripheral players in the 1995 referendum, from Jacques Parizeau to Jean Chrétien to Preston Manning and Frank McKenna, and asked them what they would have done if the Yes side had been declared the winner of the referendum. The resulting slim volume is the most complete account yet of the secret strategizing on both sides of that historic battle.
What the authors found was chaos. Neither the separatist Yes camp nor the federalist No coalition had any coherent plan for how to deal with a Yes, and at the highest echelons on both sides, leaders were working at cross purposes. Disarray in both the Yes and No camps would only have gotten worse after a numerical Yes victory.
I must read this book.