The suggestion was roundly rejected by federalists and sovereignists alike, a rare agreement that bears discussion.
Although such an arrangement would cost the taxpayers about 100 million dollars, the real price of a referendum can be measured in the pain and suffering it entails.
As with the previous two referendums, the fear and angst suffered by NO voters before the referendum was neatly balanced with the humiliation and disappointment suffered by the YES side voters after the referendum losses.
For most voters, a referendum is akin to having ones wisdom teeth pulled, perhaps necessary, but not an experience that one would seek out on a regular basis, even fifteen years apart!
But for rabid separatists the desire for a new referendum is overwhelming.
Many of the most militant among them, those under 34 years old, haven't had the opportunity to vote for an independent Quebec and the unbearable itch needs to be scratched.
These are the militants that are demanding that the Parti Quebecois make an absolute commitment to hold another referendum should the PQ win the next election, come hell or high water, but for Pauline Marois and other veterans of the party, the idea of a third referendum under less than 'winning conditions' is a case of 'twice bitten, thrice shy.'
Although it could never happen, the very best gift that Premier Charest could give Quebec federalists is another referendum, sometime in the next two years before the Liberals face their inevitable Waterloo at the polls.
Mr. Charest could call a referendum in order to 'clear the air.' He would commit, that in the case of a YES victory, his government would resign and abstain in a vote over the declaration of independence in the National Assembly under the new Parti Quebecois government.
Lunacy? I think not.
It may be the very best federalist strategy available. The very reason Madame Marois fears a referendum is the very same reason we should hold one.
That's because the YES side will undoubtedly lose again and because any loss will mean that support for the sovereignty option is falling (because of the closeness of the last vote.)
To put it another way, 'losing conditions' are just about ideal and federalists should play their own hand by demanding Quebeckers vote at a time when federalists fortunes are on a high and a time when they can control the timing and the referendum question.
Federalists wouldn't have to change any of the referendum rules other than the question. To do so would have the separatists crying foul.
All that needs to change is the question itself. In the previous two referendums, the separatist PQ government, in an effort to mislead Quebeckers as to what they were voting for, asking two very convoluted and muddy questions that left much to interpretation.
1980- "The Government of Quebec has made public its proposal to negotiate a new agreement with the rest of Canada, based on the equality of nations; this agreement would enable Quebec to acquire the exclusive power to make its laws, levy its taxes and establish relations abroad — in other words, sovereignty — and at the same time to maintain with Canada an economic association including a common currency; any change in political status resulting from these negotiations will only be implemented with popular approval through another referendum; on these terms, do you give the Government of Quebec the mandate to negotiate the proposed agreement between Quebec and Canada? 106 words
1995- "Do you agree that Québec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Québec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?" 45 wordsA crystal clear question is in the interests of the NO side. It will leave no illusions as to what is being contemplated and faced with a stark reality, some wafflers will be swayed to vote NO.
To what end you might ask?
A fair and reasonable question.
First and foremost it will take the wind out of the movement and put off the next referendum another fifteen years. At current immigration levels, it will mean that by then, close to one million new immigrants will have made Quebec their home and of these one can expect them to vote 90% in favour of Canada, making any chance at all for a referendum win impossible.
Secondly it will strengthen Ottawa's hand vis-a-vis the new Parti Quebecois government that is likely to be elected next time around. A newly elected PQ could not use threats of separation to blackmail Ottawa.
The tap dancing would be amusing to watch and all the PQ bluster would be about a threatening as the big bad wolf trying to blow down the brick house!
Hopefully, it will shut up the militants, to some extent anyway.
The Young Turks of the sovereignty movement will finally taste the agony of defeat, just as their forefathers did before them and that, I have to say somewhat guiltily, pleases me enormously.
They, like their sovereignist predecessors will inevitably suffer a crisis of confidence and fallibility, much as soldiers who are crushed in a decisive battle.
Of course, a referendum loss will never make hardliners go away, but it will shut them up for several years until the next gen rises to take their place.
Finally the Bloc Quebecois will face a true crisis of conscious- stay or leave?
Can the blocheads actually stay on in Ottawa after a humiliating referendum loss and talk about remaining on for another fifteen years until the next referendum?
Perhaps they will, but the merciless beating and humiliation they will face on the floor of the House will be amusing. No doubt professional hecklers, like the ever cruel Marlene Jennings, a Liberal from Montreal or the more idiotic Conservative LaVar Payne, a Conservative form Medicine will viciously remind the BQ that they don't really represent the will of Quebec.
A referendum loss for sovereignists will be a heaping helping of humble pie. I can't wait for that!
It's weird to say it, but I share the very same dream with the most militant of separatists- a referendum as soon as possible!
Let's get it ON!!