The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.59/No.41           November 6, 1995 
Pro-Sovereignty Forces Gain In Face Of Scare Campaign  


MONTREAL - As the October 30 Quebec vote nears, polls show the pro-sovereignty side has taken the lead. This has brought a surge of enthusiasm into the "yes" campaign.

At a rally here on October 19, more than 1,000 pro- sovereignty youth cheered the call for an all-out effort to win. They chanted "We want a country" and waved placards sporting the yes symbols of the campaign.

There are pro-yes committees organized in colleges and universities across the province, and thousands of youth are attending meetings. A citywide meeting in Quebec City on October 22 drew over 5,000 people.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) opened its convention this week in Montreal. "We are proud to stand in solidarity with 85,000 CUPE members in Quebec," said union president Judy Darcy in her report to the convention. "We are proud to affirm our support for self-determination for Quebec - and to confirm that the ties that bind us as workers are as strong as ever."

The CUPE is the largest union in Canada, with 460,000 members.

Darcy's report was approved without discussion, although the referendum is a hot topic around the convention hall. Many delegates wore yes buttons.

Campaign of threats backfires
Canadian federalist forces continue their attempts to frighten Quebecois into voting against sovereignty. The latest salvo was delivered by federal finance minister Paul Martin on October 17 in Quebec City, when he said that 1 million jobs in Quebec would be jeopardized if the population votes yes. There are 3.2 million people holding jobs in the province.

But the scare campaign is backfiring. "Fear campaigns are over," a caller to a radio call-in show told Martin in Chicoutimi, Quebec. The caller, a sovereignty supporter, thanked Martin because, he said, exaggerated statements about job losses only drive more people to support the yes.

The failure of the scare tactics and the change in the polls has introduced disarray into the no campaign. In an effort to turn the slide around, Quebec Liberal Party leader Daniel Johnson, the main public spokesperson for the no campaign, proposed on October 21 that the federal government declare its willingness to negotiate more political autonomy for the Quebec government. This idea is supported by a large majority of Quebecois.

Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien flatly rejected the idea later the same day. "We're not talking about the constitution, we're talking about the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada," he said.

Pierre Paradis, the number-two spokesperson of the no campaign, predicted on October 23 that the yes would win if Chrétien didn't change his stance.

The shift in the polls has brought instability into financial markets in Canada. The Canadian dollar has declined by one-and-a-half cents since October 17, following several months of gains. On October 23, the Toronto stock market had the sixth largest drop in value in its history.

The no campaign immediately blamed the referendum. News broadcasts followed up by saying the referendum will cause increases in the costs of mortgages and consumer loans.

In fact, the shake-up is part of a broader instability affecting the currencies of several other imperialist countries and is only partly attributable to the political uncertainty in Canada.

Women, immigrants, and racism
As the referendum campaign heats up, the anti-working- class policies of the capitalist forces that lead both sides are showing through. Federalist senator Jacques Hébert was exposed for calling Quebec political scientist and yes supporter Josée Legault a "separatist cow."

Yes campaign leader Lucien Bouchard, the leader of the official opposition in the Canadian parliament, explained to a meeting of women in Quebec City on October 14 that a Quebec government should do more to raise the low birth rate in Quebec.

"We [francophone Quebecois] are one of the white races with the lowest birth rates. That makes no sense."

His remark provoked an angry response by many Quebecois, immigrants, women, and Black rights activists. While Bouchard apologized for being "misinterpreted," he never backed off from the content of the remarks.

Roger Annis is a member of Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada Local 841 in Montreal.

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