Lisée warns against ref­er­en­dum

PQ leader candidate fears promis­ing vote would marginal­ize party

Montreal Gazette - - City - PHILIP AUTHIER pau­thier@mon­tre­al­gazette.com twit­ter.com/phili­pau­thier

QUE­BEC The Parti Québé­cois would be shoot­ing it­self in the foot if it goes into the next elec­tion promis­ing a sovereignty ref­er­en­dum, says Jean-François Lisée.

In fact, given the mood of the peo­ple — for whom the very word ref­er­en­dum is “poi­son” — the PQ could find it­self busted down to the sec­ond op­po­si­tion party if it sticks to the idea, he said.

“My fore­cast is sim­ple,” Lisée said Tues­day. “If we per­sist in propos­ing a ref­er­en­dum in a first man­date, we will be the third party of Que­bec in 2018. The Lib­er­als and Coali­tion Avenir Québec will have won.

“We will be the third party. We will be marginal­ized. The fu­ture will not be pretty.”

Lisée, one of five can­di­dates run­ning in the PQ lead­er­ship race to re­place Pierre Karl Péladeau, made the com­ments fol­low­ing pub­li­ca­tion Mon­day of a new SOM-Co­geco poll show­ing two-thirds of Que­be­cers think the PQ should not plan to hold an­other ref­er­en­dum.

If we per­sist in propos­ing a ref­er­en­dum in a first man­date, we will be the third party of Que­bec in 2018.

Only 13 per cent of re­spon­dents sup­ported the idea of the PQ hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum in the first man­date if it takes power in the Oc­to­ber 2018 gen­eral elec­tion.

The dates and me­chan­ics of an­other ref­er­en­dum have dom­i­nated the PQ lead­er­ship race for sev­eral weeks now.

While Lisée is cam­paign­ing against any ref­er­en­dum in a first PQ man­date, lead­er­ship hope­ful Mar­tine Ouel­let is promis­ing one. Can­di­dates Alexan­dre Cloutier and Véronique Hivon have been vague, re­fus­ing to say one way or an­other.

“My com­mit­ment to make Que­bec a coun­try is not based on polls, but on se­ri­ous and rig­or­ous stud­ies and the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the PQ mem­bers,” Cloutier said Mon­day.

A few days ear­lier, Cloutier, the per­ceived front-run­ner in the race, said he would not launch an­other ref­er­en­dum un­less he had a “feel­ing” it could be won.

But Lisée, the MNA for Rose­mont, said the ref­er­en­dum talk is a grave er­ror.

“I don’t doubt (Cloutier’s) qual­i­ties or abil­ity to feel things out, and polls come and go, but we’re talk­ing about a sig­nif­i­cant down­ward trend,” Lisée said. “You have to be able to smell that and it smells very, very strong.”

He noted the last two pub­lic opinion polls have shown even peo­ple who usu­ally vote PQ would be less inclined to do so if the party pro­posed a ref­er­en­dum in a first man­date.

“Those peo­ple, our vot­ers, are get­ting worked up about this,” Lisée said.

“They are say­ing, ‘Don’t go there now.’

“They are in the real world. They say, ‘If you go there now, we will fail.’ They are in a hurry to make Que­bec in­de­pen­dent, but not in a hurry to fail.”

He said the idea of a ref­er­en­dum be­ing poi­son started to so­lid­ify in peo­ple’s minds around 1998, af­ter the failed 1995 sovereignty ref­er­en­dum.

He es­ti­mates it will take about six years of good PQ govern­ment to get peo­ple to warm up to the op­tion again.

“I re­spect col­leagues who are more op­ti­mistic than me,” Lisée said.

“But I would like them to bet­ter pick up on the sig­nals we are get­ting from our own mem­bers, the pop­u­la­tion.”

His com­ments came on the same day Cloutier an­nounced he has the sup­port of an 11th mem­ber of the PQ cau­cus, Tail­lon MNA Diane La­marre.

The same SOM poll shows Cloutier lead­ing the race with 25 per cent sup­port from re­spon­dents com­pared to his near­est op­po­nent, Hivon, with 16 per cent.

Lisée is at 12 per cent, and Ouel­let has six per cent.

The bad news for the PQ is that same poll shows only one voter in three is in­ter­ested in the party’s lead­er­ship race.

Cloutier has an­nounced plans for a big Mon­treal lead­er­ship launch rally on Sun­day. Lisée has other plans: he will of­fi­cially kick off his cam­paign in his home­town of Thet­ford Mines on June 26. Per­ceived as an in­tel­lec­tual, he wants to show he came from mod­est roots and once worked in an as­bestos mine.

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