Bouchard hopes he won't see a third referendum in his lifetime because he says he thinks it will be unsuccessful.
"It's clear. I hope I won't see it because we'll lose a third one. There's no way we can expose ourselves to losing a third one.
"Later on, I don't know."
If the Bloc disappears, Duceppe warned that democracy in Canada would be weakened as a result.
“If you don’t have any choice for sovereigntists in Ottawa, then that means a lack of democracy,” he said.
Right. Because having 20% of the population holding the other 80% to ransom is a model of democratic legitimacy. For most self-proclaimed democrats the sad truth is that democracy is only democracy when the people are voting your way. The people of Quebec, however, have spoken and the Bloc is deader than Rene Levesque.
I bring up these two stories not because of their importance, the Quebecois game of high stakes blackmail is over now, but because of their value as a political lesson. Both Bouchard and Duceppe have failed. Their careers, after a few brilliant successes, have ended in a sort of stilted ignominy.
The former was the great champion who swept into the 1995 Referendum like an avenging angel. Massive crowds greeted the former Tory minister as he made a kind of royal progress through La Belle Province. The man who betrayed Brian Mulroney with a savage though rationalized coldness. But that mattered for very little then. Bouchard was to be the father of a new nation.
Instead he became a mediocre premier rather than a heroic first President. He saw his political career end amidst bitter fighting with his own backbench and the province's powerful government unions. A sort of conservative by the bizarre standards of Quebec politics he was, and remains, essentially alienated from the mainstream of the province he once lead. I remember seeing his resignation announcement in 2001. He was a bitter man then and has changed little since.
Then there is Giles Duceppe. If not exactly a happy warrior he emitted a kind of mechanical charm during his long stint in Ottawa. He could yelp, whine and threaten with the best of them. For nearly two decades he delivered a stream of awkward histrionics at each Question Period. Clouseau done on the cheap. There was always something second-hand in the performance. An understudy with the audience keenly missing the absent master. The Bloc was suppose to be a one-trick pony: Pave the way toward independence. Once independence ceased being a practical option what remained? Something far more solid and infinitely more reliable: The sweet comfort of a government salary.
The Bloc existed for same reason most government bureaucracies exist: To provide employment for the unemployable and patronage for the easily patronized. Watching the Bloc MPs in those latter question periods even going through the motions seemed like too much work. Up they would go, trying vainly to muster up some anger at the Tory frontbench. Even by the low standards of Question Period the feigned outraged at the most trivial of imagined slights was near comical.
This is how most political movements begin, survive and then finally die. At first they are lead by passionate crusaders fired by some sacred vision. Once the vision becomes elusive the rationalizations begin. Winning conditions. Incremental reform. Then there is the steady drift into seeking power for its own sake. At last the desire becomes a vulgar instinct. You want it because you've had it so long. The name on the door. The official car. The expense account. It's a way of life with the grand vision of old receding into a guilty memory. When the voters at last see that there is nothing to see it all goes away with a terrifying speed. The cardboard boxes and the awkwardly hailed taxis are often the only epilogue. The more senior figures spend the next few months trying to flog their memoirs.
This is how Quebec sovereignty ends: Not with the bang of independence but with the whimper of a federally financed retirement.