Quebec tables its own referendum bill

The Quebec government has responded to Ottawa's referendum bill with legislation of its own. Bill 99 was tabled in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

The legislation makes it clear that only Quebecers have the right to decide their own future.

It says 50 per cent plus one is a clear majority and Quebec's borders cannot be touched without the government's consent.

Premier Lucien Bouchard appealed to Quebecers in a televised address this evening to support his government's legislation.

He said all Quebecers have been attacked in Ottawa's clarity bill and he stressed the need for a concensus to show the federal government a united position.

But Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest has refused.

In his televised speech, Charest said Bouchard's strategy was aimed at creating the "winning conditions" for another referendum on separation and nothing more.

He said the only thing the legislation would do is delay the priorities Quebecers are truly interested in such as health care and the economy.

Public opinion polls released in the past two days show support for sovereignty among Quebecers is at an all time low.

"Why doesn't the premier listen to Quebecers and drop the idea of another referendum," demanded Charest after the bill was introduced.

But Bouchard maintains that the federal "clarity" bill is an attack on Quebec's democratic institutions.

"We don't want this debate. The economy is our priority. But Ottawa has attacked, and is trying to divide us."

Bouchard said over the next several weeks, his government will be holding public hearings on the legislation. And he urged Quebecers to make their views known.

Charest also appealed to Quebecers to contact the government but he said they should tell the PQ that they disagree with the strategy and want their elected officials to fight other priorities.