The Quebec government has a new weapon in the battle to set the rules of secession. It's come up with a revised version of Bill 99, Quebec's answer to Ottawa's Clarity bill. The Parti Quebecois says the bill is an answer to what it calls federal aggression.
The debate over the original Bill 99 never caught on. Voters weren't interested, and the opposition Liberals did not support it.
The new version is similar, with the same sweeping prose on the rights of Quebecers, and Quebecers alone to determine their future. But it has some new lines, such as one recognizing the right of first nations to self-determination on Quebec soil. Another one, in the preamble, recognizes the importance of the Supreme Court decision on the rights of secession. Intergovernmental affairs minister Joseph Facal thinks this improved version of Bill 99 should bring everyone on board. "Bill 99 is not a partisan piece of legislation. For instance, please tell me which article the late Robert Bourassa could have had problems with."
But the current Liberals see plenty of problems with Bill 99. Their constitutional critic Benoit Pelletier says the changes are only cosmetic. And he's disturbed by the reference to the Supreme Court. "It's just a reference in the preamble. There is nothing in the text of the bill itself which is referring to the supreme court's decision."
Despite Liberal opposition, Facal still hopes to get unanimous approval for his revised bill.