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MONSIEUR COKEHEAD

John Chuckman

I confess that while completely disagreeing with the aims of the Parti Québécois I think the party has had some riveting leaders. René Lévesque, the Parti’s founder, was a fascinating man, a man whose disarmingly intimate manner of speech rarely failed to spark interest. You could watch him puffing cigarettes and rasping his eloquent words for hours. Later, the party chose Lucien Bouchard, perhaps the most electrifying public speaker Canada has produced. This was a man capable of giving goose bumps to listeners, a fiery intelligence on a mission.

Well, members of the Parti Québécois have just elected a new leader, André Boisclair. He doesn’t quite fall into the category of exciting politician, but he is a capable speaker in Canada’s two languages, better, certainly, than the party’s last leader. He has the saving grace of appearing not to be subject to fits of rubbery facial gymnastics like the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Gilles Duceppe, a man who unfortunately often resembles the valedictorian student at a college for clowns.

Boisclair is not without excitement of a kind: he has confessed on many occasions to his past use of cocaine, claiming credit for his honesty in confessing.

But his honesty likely owes much to the many witnesses of his activities. For Monsieur Cokehead, as I prefer to call him, cocaine use was not restricted to his time as a private citizen but included his time as a minister of Quebec. There are few nasty things ministers do that are not recorded by opponents, the press, and potential competitors within a party. So the “honest” approach was pretty much a desperate gamble.

Few readers will be unaware of the terrible, bloody battles in Quebec between biker gangs fighting over control of the drug trade, people blown up in the streets as though they lived in Bush’s Baghdad. The cocaine that yuppies and hip politicians laughingly snuffed up at stylish parties was, in fact, soaked with human blood. Monsieur Cokehead cannot have been unaware of this fact. His honesty, when questioned, in associating his activities while in office of a government fighting narco-terrorists is considerably less than refreshing.

Consider the only other cokehead who, so far as I am aware, competed (successfully) for high office, George Bush. I don’t claim that all the human misery and failures of Bush are attributable to his earlier and extensive use of cocaine, but they are part of the same moral and intellectual fabric. Arrogance and lack of judgment are behind everything from the Bush horrors in Iraq and the disgrace of New Orleans to the use of cocaine and excessive alcohol.

Does any clear thinker believe that Monsieur Cokehead has not already shown a monumental lack of judgment making him totally unsuitable for high office? Imagine him in charge of another army, the one that recently has been spoken of as needed by an independent Quebec? Imagine the young recruits – or would they be conscripts? – being assigned duties by someone with Bush’s judgment?

This is not a promising vision for the future of a creative and vibrant part of Canada. But then separatism itself is not a promising future. The world does not need another mini-state that quite likely would fall under the virtual control of the United States, a country whose history shows little tolerance for those speaking any language other than English.

The insults once heard from some thoughtless English Canadians, words I thought foolish in the 1960s, were pretty much obliterated by René Lévesque’s eloquent simmering rage. I think in Canada’s history, he has an important place as a kind of steam-pressure release valve for a lot of anger and frustration that might have been directed in a much more destructive direction.

Lucien Bouchard gave a referendum for separatism its last great crusade, but he failed because most people in Quebec instinctively know that separatism represents an excessive reaction and that Canada has become one of the world’s most tolerant and decent nations.

Monsieur Cokehead rather aptly symbolizes the now largely-empty rhetoric of the separatist movement.

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