Making Quebec a country
Aug 17, 2012 / 11:00 am
Meet Jean-Martin Aussant: the man who doesn't think the Parti Quebecois is sovereigntist enough.
Aussant, once a rising star for the PQ, abruptly quit the party in June 2011 over differences with leader Pauline Marois. He sat in Quebec's legislature as an Independent until he founded the upstart Option nationale a few months later.
With only one seat in the national assembly, Aussant fought unsuccessfully for his right to appear in the TV leadership debates, the first of four goes Sunday.
So what does this economist, a former vice-president of Morgan Stanley Capital International, actually stand for and wish he could tell debate viewers?
He says the PQ, a party created in 1968 for the specific purpose of achieving independence, has become a "so-called sovereigntist party."
Aussant is frustrated with its wishy-washiness and refusal to set referendum timetables in its perennial effort to win over that crucial soft-nationalist electorate.
He takes pride in the fact that Option nationale would be straight with Quebecers, much like former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau, who promised a referendum and quit right after he lost.
"We have to be extremely clear during a campaign, there are no traps or pitfalls," Aussant said in an interview. He considers Parizeau a mentor and says he still receives advice from the old general. Last week, Parizeau's wife was campaigning with Aussant.
Armed with a majority mandate, an Option nationale government would immediately begin seeking to repatriate powers from Canada to control all of its own taxes; negotiate and sign its own international treaties; and lay out its own criminal code.
The Canadian government could agree or disagree. In any case, an Option nationale government would already be writing Quebec's own constitution with broad public input.
The constitution would include a declaration of sovereignty.
Finally, the people of Quebec would be asked to vote on the document in a referendum, which, Aussant said, Ottawa and the rest of the world would likely deem legitimate.
"There have been 40 new countries since the first referendum in Quebec (in 1980), they've all been recognized and none of them has done it more democratically than we would do here," he said.
"If people (achieving) sovereignty with machine-guns are recognized, then I think people doing it with polls and referendums and votes would certainly be recognized as well."
For now, the scenario remains entirely hypothetical.
Option nationale remains far from attaining power. The months-old party is running 123 candidates in Quebec's 125 ridings, but recent polls suggest its support hovers around two per cent provincewide.
Aussant is pleased with the support, however, after such a short period of time.
"Only eight months ago we were not even on the radar screen," said Aussant, 42. He says he plans to run the party in future elections, regardless of what happens Sept. 4.
Quebec is home to three prominent political parties that support independence, including the PQ and the much-smaller Quebec solidaire. These parties say they're waiting for the right conditions to hold a third referendum on sovereignty.
Option nationale argues the timing has never been better to leave Canada.
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