Bloc Québécois forms the Opposition
They saw it coming. But many Canadians are still stunned. The Bloc Québécois, a party dedicated to dragging Quebec out of Confederation, has won enough seats to form Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Far from gloating, a solemn Lucien Bouchard tries to reassure non-Quebecers that his 54 MPs will play by the rules and not disrupt Parliament. "I think that it's not possible to pave the road to sovereignty in raising hell," he says in this CBC Television clip. There are questions about how many of the new Bloc MPs are committed separatists. Liberal Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa argues the vote was a protest at the treatment of his province -- not a mandate for separation. But make no mistake, reporter Tom Kennedy says, the "great sovereignty debate" is on its way to Ottawa.
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: Oct. 26, 1993
Guest(s): Lucien Bouchard, Robert Bourassa, Jacques Parizeau
Host: Pamela Wallin
Reporter: Tom Kennedy
Did You know?
• Lucien Bouchard had resigned his federal environment minister post and left the Conservative caucus in May 1990. He felt betrayed by a proposal to water down Quebec's five conditions for acceptance of the Meech Lake constitutional accord. In the wake of the accord's failure, Bouchard started recruiting other disgruntled Quebec MPs. The Bloc Québécois was founded on June 15, 1991. For Bouchard, it was a return to earlier sovereigntist beliefs.
• Polls late in the 1993 campaign suggested a collapse of Conservative support could help make the Bloc, which ran no candidates outside Quebec, the official Opposition. Bouchard had said he hoped for "50 or more" seats. The party won 54 of the province's 75 seats, garnering 49.3 per cent of the province's votes. The Reform party came third with 52 seats and hoped in vain that recounts might make it the official Opposition. The NDP won nine seats; the Conservatives two.
• After the votes were tallied, Bouchard announced that, "Tonight, Canada and Quebec have changed for the better." He said he would put Quebec interests first but promised to fight on behalf of the unemployed and the disadvantaged in all of Canada. Bouchard made it clear, though, where he hoped the road would lead. "I am convinced that this election will be one of the pivots in the process of Quebec's passage to sovereignty."
• As Opposition leader, Bouchard's MP salary jumped $49,100 to $134,800. During Question Period in the Commons, he got to ask the first question and his party got the most time. Official Opposition status also brought a generous allowance for researchers. Bouchard took over the stately offices first inhabited by Opposition leader Mackenzie King. He refused, however, to move into Stornoway, the Opposition leader's mansion. Bouchard lived across the Ottawa River in Hull, Que.
• Several newspapers warned Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to beware of the Bloc. "Despite calm assurances from the cocky Bloc Québécois leader, Lucien Bouchard, about acting responsibly, almost every measure the government brings in is sure to be viewed in the context of Quebec separation," said a Kamloops Daily News editorial. Shortly after the election, Bouchard raised hackles by demanding that Quebec receive $1 billion in compensation for cancellation of the $5.8-billion EH-101 helicopter contract.
• After the Parti Québécois formed the Quebec government in 1994, the Bloc focused its attention on gaining support for the referendum on sovereignty that was eventually held on Oct. 30, 1995. Bouchard was called to take over the sovereigntist campaign after it faltered under the leadership of PQ Premier Jacques Parizeau. The Non federalist side won with 50.5 per cent to the Oui side's 49.5 per cent.
• After the referendum loss, Bouchard decided to leave federal politics. In January 1996, he replaced Parizeau as PQ leader and Quebec premier. In 2001, Bouchard retired from politics.
• The Bloc lost official Opposition status to the Reform party in the 1997 election. In the November 2000 election, the Bloc won 38 seats, coming third behind the Liberals with 172 and the Canadian Alliance with 66. Several Bloc MPs left the party or were ousted, reducing their ranks to 33 as of February 2004.