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Prime Minister Chrétien comments on 1995 Quebec referendum

The Story

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien says a simple majority vote of 50 per cent plus one is not enough to split up the country, especially since the referendum question is so confusing. "In a country like ours, to recognize that at one time a rule of majority plus one could break up a country would be irresponsible," says Chrétien in this clip. His comment has Reform party leader Preston Manning seeing red. Manning lashes out at Chrétien for being undemocratic. Manning, along with an unlikely ally -- Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard -- says the prime minister must accept the outcome of the referendum, even if it is just 50 per cent plus one who vote to separate. 

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: Sept. 19, 1995
Guest(s): Jean Chrétien, Preston Manning
Host: Alannah Campbell
Reporter: Alvin Cader
Duration: 2:32

Did You know?

• Jean Chrétien defended his statement by saying that even former Quebec premier and ardent separatist René Lévesque had insisted on a "clear majority" vote before pursuing the path of Quebec independence. At the same time the prime minister failed to say what percentage of the popular vote would be sufficient.

• Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard praised Manning for taking a "courageous stand" in defending a simple majority decision. He described Chrétien's stance as a "denial of democracy."
• Conservative Party Leader Jean Charest criticized Preston Manning's stance. He compared Manning to a "bit player" on a hockey team who comes out on the ice for the sole purpose of tripping the team captain.

• Manning, in turn, compared Chrétien to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who had lashed out opponents of his Meech Lake Accord. For more on this topic visit: Constitutional Discord: Meech Lake.

• The native people of northern Quebec argued that if Quebec can separate from Canada, they could separate from Quebec. They held their own referendum. The Cree voted No to Quebec sovereignty by 96.3 per cent and the Inuit by 95 per cent. (Source: The Struggle for Quebec by Robert A. Young, 1999.)


Separation Anxiety: The 1995 Quebec Referendum more