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Meech Lake: Exit Bouchard

Unfinished business brought the First Ministers back to the constitutional bargaining table in 1987. Many Canadians felt uneasy about Quebec's exclusion from the 1982 Constitution and so the negotiations began again under the leadership of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney with the Meech Lake Accord. CBC Archives examines the backroom lockdowns, the "distinct society" debate and the ultimate undercurrent of constitutional discord.

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In a five-page resignation letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Lucien Bouchard formally breaks ranks. Bouchard, federal Minister of the Environment, was well-known as a trusted supporter of Mulroney. But the release of a government report has turned allies into adversaries. The parliamentary Charest Report recommended removing Quebec's power of veto from the Meech Lake accord. "The government is making an alliance with those who want Quebec to continue to be humiliated," Bouchard angrily states.
. On March 27, 1990, a Special Committee of the House of Commons, chaired by Jean Charest, was called to settle the constitutional stalemate with Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Manitoba.
. After the Charest Report was released, some Conservative and Liberal MPs left their parties and joined Lucien Bouchard to form the Bloc Québécois. On June 15, 1991, Bouchard was elected the leader of the Bloc. The Bloc Québécois' goal was to advance Quebec's priorities in the House of Commons and to promote Quebec's seceding from Canada.

. In the 1993 federal election, Lucien Bouchard and the Bloc won an overwhelming 49.3 per cent of the popular vote in Quebec. With a win of 54 seats, Bouchard became Canada's first separatist leader of the Opposition.
. In January 1996, Bouchard resigned as leader of the Bloc and replaced Jacques Parizeau as Quebec premier and leader of the Parti Québécois. In 2001, he retired from politics.

. As the June 23, 1990 deadline approached, Brian Mulroney said: "In March 1990, Mr. Bouchard spoke to a meeting of the Quebec caucus, and said, 'I urge you all to remain loyal to the prime minister, who has fought so hard for this. Let's all see what happens on June 23, but until then, he deserves our support, and needs our loyalty. That was in March: he left in May. His argument was that Meech had changed. But compare the document at the time he left with the text of the 1987 agreement: not a comma had been changed. And never was there even an ounce of dilution of Meech." -Maclean's, June 16, 2000.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 22, 1990
Guest(s): Lucien Bouchard, Robert Bourassa, Brian Mulroney
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: David Halton
Duration: 4:07

Last updated: August 22, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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