While I'm no fan of the paper Chantal Hébert writes for, I must admit that she and Jean Lapierre did an impressive job by interviewing nearly all of the key players who were in the thick of the battle during the 1995 referendum. Asking each person what would've likely happened had half a percentage point gone the other way, I was surprised by some of the answers but not when it came to Jean Chretien's, who I've always felt was a cross between a mafia thug and an embarrassing buffoon. His conduct during this whole ugly episode reminds me of a lazy high school student who goofs off for months before deciding to do his assignment the night before it's due. And by not clearly defining what constituted a victory or a clear question before the referendum took place, he ceded any authority to negotiate on Canada's behalf if the Yes side had won with a 50 plus 1 majority. On the contrary, the person who made the most sense while reading The Morning After was Preston Manning, who a majority of Canadians would have trusted a lot more than the Chretien-led liberals to negotiate a settlement with an independent Quebec. A lot of important issues are raised in this book, which still remain a subject of fierce debate more than twenty years after the dust began to settle.
After nearly two decades two of Canada's best known reporters, Chantal Hébert and Jean Lapierre, dares to ask the question - what if Quebec had voted yes in the 1995 referendum? Among the answers: Jacques Parizeau had set aside $17 billion in case there was a run on the Canadian money markets, Lucien Bouchard felt he would have been a stooge for Parizeau instead of the promised "lead negotiator" and Mario Dumont feeling simply used and that a yes vote was actually one for a renewed federation. On the federalist side, many ministers feeling that Jean Chrétien made a huge mistake by not making contingency plans in case the yes won, the point woman who was in fact given absolutely no mission at all, and Preston Manning who would have vowed to force the government to drive a hard bargain. The provincial premiers of the time are also heard from, including Mike Harris who was forced to admit a yes vote would have brought an abrupt end to his hard right agenda and Frank McKenna who was asked by a cabal inside the federal government to lead a government of national unity. What I found stunning, though, was Chrétien who just threw his hands up on the distinct society issue after years of fighting it ... and how he didn't seem to mind burning bridges when he needed them at the time of Canada's greatest peacetime crisis. A well researched book where the interviewers allowed the subjects to tell the story their way.
Well written. Although with the benefit of time and hindsight, good to capture the thoughts and comments of those on the front lines from every angle. Excellent job looking at an important time in history in Canada without partisanship. Well done Chantal!
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