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Parizeau blames “money and the ethnic vote” for referendum loss

The Story

It was close, but not close enough. Supporters of Quebec's sovereignty are left reeling after the No side ekes out an uncomfortably close win to cap a historic referendum night. With emotions running high, Premier Jacques Parizeau takes to the podium to address a cheering crowd. But as this CBC Television clip shows, the cheers would turn to silence and recrimination after the defeated leader blames his loss on "money and the ethnic vote." 

Medium: Television
Program: News Special
Broadcast Date: Oct. 30, 1995
Guests: Yves Fortier, Alain Gagnon, Stephen Harper, Josée Legault, John Parisella, Bob Rae, Brian Tobin, Bernard Valcourt
Host: Peter Mansbridge, Jason Moscovitz
Moderator: Hana Gartner, Dennis Trudeau
Duration: 25:07

Did You know?

• "It's true, it's true that we have been defeated, but basically by what? By money and some ethnic votes, essentially. So all it means is that, in the next round, instead of being 60 or 61 per cent to vote Yes, we will be 63 or 64 per cent and it will suffice. That's all." - Jacques Parizeau, Oct. 30, 1995
• Reaction to Parizeau's speech was swift and angry. Liberal MNA Christos Sirros, who was Greek in origin, said the speech was "rancorous and hateful." He added, "It makes me sick."
• Frank Diamant, of the League for B'nai Brith, said: "He isolated, insulted and humiliated the ethnic community in Quebec... disenfranchised, eliminated them and cast them out as if they were of a lesser entity."

• The "money" part of Parizeau's speech was interpreted to refer to Quebec's business community, many members of which opposed sovereignty on economic grounds. It may also have referred to the money spent by the No campaign, especially money contributed by the federal government.

• Some observers took exception to the way Parizeau seemed to exclude everyone but francophone voters when he used the word "we" in his speech. "Don't forget that three-fifths of us voted Yes," he said. "It wasn't quite enough, but very soon it will be enough. Our country is within our grasp."

• Parizeau's was just one of many politicians' speeches on referendum night. On the Yes side, Lucien Bouchard said: "If federalists do not realize the federal regime has never been as fragile as tonight, they have understood nothing." He also vowed that the sovereigntist fight would continue, saying: "The next time will be the right one and it could come faster than we think."

• "We have signalled the end of Canada as we know it," said the Yes side's Mario Dumont. "Canada now exists only on paper."
• Both Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Quebec Liberal leader Daniel Johnson reached out to Quebec in their speeches that evening. Johnson said the result was a "mandate for change" and Chrétien said he was "holding out a hand" to the PQ.

• About 7,000 Yes supporters were crowded into the Montreal Congress Centre to watch the results roll in. The evening began optimistically, with chants of "On veut un pays!" (We want a country!) But the mood turned to disappointment when it became clear the No side would win.

• Upset by the result, hundreds of Yes supporters later congregated near the headquarters of the No campaign. About 200 police officers, clad in riot gear, were sent to disperse them.
• Parizeau is greeted in this clip by raucous cheers from Yes side supporters. While he asks them to quiet down, the premier eventually joins them in singing Gens du pays, a nationalistic anthem penned in the 1970s by Gilles Vigneault.

• The song that plays as Parizeau leaves the podium is Quand les hommes vivront d'amour by Quebec poet and singer-songwriter Raymond Lévesque.


Separation Anxiety: The 1995 Quebec Referendum more