Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau is determined to let Quebec citizens vote next year to become an independent nation. In one of his first interviews since winning power, Parizeau spoke with Toronto Bureau Chief William C. Symonds:
Q: Why should Quebec leave Canada?
A: We now have two governments [Quebec's and the federal] trying to do exactly the same things with two sets of offices, two sets of programs, and two civil services. There is a cost to this. So more and more people say: "Why don't we get out of the federal system and run our own affairs like any normal group of people?" This [realization] has developed at the same time as the answer to the question: "How do you define yourself--as a Canadian or as a Quebecker?" Those who define themselves as Quebeckers first are about 60%.
Q: How do you respond to the many English-Canadian economists who warn that a breakup of Canada would have dire economic consequences?
A: It is awfully hard to become an English-speaking Canadian economist if you haven't published a horror story [about Quebec independence]. And the abuse of such horror stories has diminished their effectiveness.
Q: Wouldn't a breakup disrupt trade between Quebec and English Canada?
A: I'm not looking for a new economic agreement with Canada. All I'm saying is that we'll keep it as it is. Granted, English Canadians won't like what's going to happen. But what can they really do? It is clear that we will be members of NAFTA and GATT. There is no way under these rules that Canada can retaliate against Quebec's products.
Q: But an independent Quebec using the Canadian dollar wouldn't have any control over monetary policy.
A: What else is new? We never have had any impact.
Q: How can you reassure investors?
A: Most investment is carried out by U.S. corporations that are already here and know Quebec well. And they are not nervous. Many of them operate in 30 countries around the world. [After our independence,] they'd operate in 31 rather than 30. So?
Q: Would the U.S. be reluctant to recognize an independent Quebec?
A: Look, I'm sure they'll hesitate. I'm sure Canadians will ask them to delay. That's understandable. Therefore, we will need support from elsewhere. But the U.S. will not allow any other country to be the first [to recognize Quebec]. They'll want to be first, because they are the dominant power on the continent.
Q: How important is it that an independent Quebec retain a sizable English-speaking community?
A: There is a remarkable pool of well-trained people, with business experience, among Anglo-Quebeckers. We would be foolhardy to neglect [them].
Q: Will you resign if the referendum is defeated in 1995?
A: I have put a great deal of my life into trying to bring about a sovereign Quebec. I think we'll do it--and I intend to win.