Bouchard: The most annoying person in Quebec

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Speaking in Quebec City this past week, at a high profile event organized in honour of the centenary of Le Devoir newspaper, former PQ Premier Lucien Bouchard took slaps at his old party, its leader Pauline Marois and its "raison d'être" Quebec sovereignty. His rough and ready commentary provoked responses across the political spectrum. The most annoying person in Quebec was at it again.

Bouchard charged the PQ with "radicalism," accusing it of showing intolerance on the question of Jewish orthodox schools opening on weekends, in order to outflank from the right the fringe ADQ party (fallen on bad times without its founding leader Mario Dumont). Gérard Bouchard, brother of Lucien, and a well known Quebec academic had (with McGill Philosopher Charles Taylor) co-chaired a commission looking at what "reasonable accommodation" of religious and cultural differences requires in contemporary Quebec. Personally piqued, Lucien Bouchard went after Pauline Marois for remarks she made comparing his brother to "Elvis Gratton" the dull-witted Quebec impersonator of Elvis Presley well known in Quebec from a Pierre Falardeau film.

If he had left it at that, he would have still had his headlines. But Bouchard intended to use centre stage to even greater advantage. The 71-year-old very active corporate lawyer dismissed the idea that Quebecers were interested in sovereignty now, or would be willing to contemplate another referendum any time soon. Not in "my lifetime" he said. Moreover, Bouchard wants Quebecers to dream a new dream. Returning to a theme "lucidity," he with others brought forward in 2005, Bouchard strafed the PQ for not addressing itself to the big questions: education -- in particular the alarming rates of school drop-outs; health and public debt, which he wants dealt with through consumption taxes and increases in household Quebec-Hydro payments.

Reaction to the Bouchard statements has been heated, extensive and ranged from the thoughtful, to the dismissive. Nobody is neutral. The moderate reaction was that on the referendum issue Bouchard was only saying publicly, what other sovereignists were saying privately. What got people going was that while Bouchard said he was still a sovereignist -- he hurt the cause with his negative remarks about its pertinence today, and then went out of his way to undermine his party, and disparage its leader.

The thing with Bouchard is that while he has a knack for looking and sounding convinced, which helps convince others, over the years his public pronouncements do not enlighten very much. As leading public voices went back and forth over what Bouchard had to say, it became apparent that (unlike William Johnson in the Globe and Mail) almost nobody in Quebec thought he has added anything useful to public debate, unless it was to inflame sovereignist passions.

La Presse editorial writer André Pratte has been warning his readers that Quebec remains one good crisis away from another debate over sovereignty. In other words Bouchard is wrong when he plays down the attachment to sovereignty in Quebec. As Robert Durtrisac discussed in Le Devoir on the weekend, sovereignists can be divided into tendencies. There are the "fatigued" ones like Bouchard who have given up on the struggle, those impatiently calling for another referendum, those who think sovereignty is inevitable and are prepared to wait, and those on the hustings spreading the word, the PQ members of the Quebec National Assembly. Alongside the PQ are the BQ MPs sent to Ottawa regularly since Bouchard founded the party (at the urging of then Liberal premier Robert Bourassa) after the failure of the Meech Lake accord.

PQ leader Marois tried to dismiss Bouchard by labeling him a "mother-in-law." What she should be doing is thanking him for showing how eager Quebecers are to debate and discuss their future, leaving all options on the table.

Duncan Cameron writes from Quebec City.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.