After Quebec’s premier argued that only independence can save it from Canada’s “ruinous impasse,” the French-speaking province’s lawmakers voted Wednesday to hold a referendum Oct. 30 on breaking away.
“The Canadian impasse hits Quebeckers’ dignity and their wallet,” Premier Jacques Parizeau, leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, said in Quebec City.
The leader of Quebec’s anti-separatist forces, Daniel Johnson of the Liberal Party, pleaded for caution, warning that independence could devastate Quebec economically.
A “Yes” vote “will be irreversible, its consequences - economically and socially - would be irreparable,” Johnson said after 35 hours of debate on the referendum. “It is founded on an illusion, on an unworkable partnership.”
The Liberal Party has put Parizeau’s government on the defensive this week with accusations that it is hiding studies that don’t support arguments in favor of independence.
The studies, part of 40 the goverment commissioned, challenge separatist economic arguments.
One of the studies predicted a budget deficit of up to $14 billion a year for an independent Quebec. That compares with a $7.9 billion deficit estimated in a study issued by the government in August.
In a survey issued Tuesday, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said two-thirds of 1,366 Quebec businesses it questioned expect independence to hurt the economy, while only 16 percent expected greater prosperity.
In Montreal, one of Quebec’s leading businessmen, Guy Saint-Pierre, said Wednesday that a sovereign Quebec would be negotiating from a position of weakness with the rest of Canada.
“Instead of being a powerful and influential player within Canada, as it is now, an independent Quebec would be a small country forced to negotiate with a country three times its size,” Saint-Pierre, president of the SNC-Lavalin engineering firm, said at a business luncheon.