Lucien Bouchard says 'wounds' remain with Brian Mulroney
New Bloc Québécois leader slams party founder as defeatist amid renewed push for sovereignty
Although they were once close friends, Lucien Bouchard says there's no way to repair his ruptured relationship with Brian Mulroney.
"We run into each other occasionally in Montreal or elsewhere and I think we have an agreement to not embarrass each other," Bouchard said Wednesday.
"We'll shake hands, but to sit down and have a coffee — no. I don't think that's possible. It's not a matter of honour. There are wounds."
- WATCH: (IN FRENCH) Bouchard takes questions Wednesday after a screening of a new documentary about his political career
Bouchard made the comments after the screening of a new documentary on his political career which will be broadcast Monday evening on the public Tele-Quebec network.
Friends should not be in politics together when they disagree over principles.- Lucien Bouchard
Mulroney, who became prime minister in 1984, named Bouchard as Canada's ambassador to Paris in 1985 and then brought him into his cabinet as environment minister in 1988. They had known each other since law school.
But they fell out in 1990 when Mulroney was trying to salvage the floundering Meech Lake constitutional accord. It was during that time that Bouchard sent a telegram of support to the Parti Québécois and declared he was a sovereigntist. An outraged Mulroney fired him from cabinet and the two men have never spoken again.
"Friends should not be in politics together when they disagree over principles," Bouchard said Wednesday.
Bloc Québécois a 'one-shot' party
Bouchard went on to found the Bloc Québécois with a handful of disgruntled Conservative and Liberal Quebec MPs in 1991. He would become leader of the Official Opposition when the Bloc took 54 seats in the 1993 election.
Bouchard said Wednesday he never saw the Bloc as anything more than something to prepare the ground for the 1995 election, seeing it as a "one-shot" deal.
While the Bloc remained a strong political presence for most of its existence, it was crushed in the 2011 federal election by a surging New Democratic Party. Bouchard would not comment on his old party's current woes.
Bouchard said he was convinced that his political career was over on the night the sovereigntists narrowly lost the Oct. 30, 1995, referendum.
"When we came home...I was going to finish the session in Ottawa and that was going to be it," he said. "I was going to come back to Montreal and resume practising law."
Instead, he was drafted by the PQ to take over from Jacques Parizeau, who stepped down after the referendum.
I hope I won't see it because we'll lose a third one.- - Lucien Bouchard, on another Quebec referendum
Bouchard said he believes the results of the 1995 referendum might have been different if it had been presented to Quebecers in a two-pronged format — one referendum to negotiate Quebec sovereignty from Canada with a political and economic partnership and then another to approve the results of the bargaining.
Bouchard hopes he won't see a third referendum in his lifetime because he says he thinks it will be unsuccessful.
"It's clear. I hope I won't see it because we'll lose a third one. There's no way we can expose ourselves to losing a third one.
"Later on, I don't know."
New leader slams 'defeatism'
Mario Beaulieu, the recently-elected leader of the Bloc, took exception to Bouchard's suggestion Wednesday that the continued existence of the Bloc in federal politics resulted in Quebec having fewer cabinet ministers in the Liberal and Conservative governments that followed the 1995 referendum.
Speaking to Radio-Canada in French, Beaulieu insisted the BQ is "more relevant than ever" and called it "absurd" to believe that the Bloc dilutes Quebec's power in Ottawa.
On the contrary, he said that if it wasn't for the Bloc, less would have been known about the sponsorship scandal. Beaulieu said that Bloc MPs are the only ones who have the freedom of speech to defend Quebec interests and promote its independence.
Beaulieu suggested Bouchard is among people who now have a defeatist attitude and have lost all hope. But the current leader said that if other sovereigntists had shared that attitude, the cause would not have advanced as far as it is now.
The Bloc now has only three MPs in the House of Commons, following the recent defection of Jean-François Fortin.
But Beaulieu is convinced that a renewed campaign to promote sovereignty will drive the party's support in the polls and elect "six or seven times" as many MPs.
With files from Radio-Canada, CBC News