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Poll: Quebec not ready for sovereignty referendum

By JIM FOX

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


A renewed drive for the independence of mainly French-speaking Quebec from the rest of Canada is a goal by new Premier Bernard Landry.

A timetable for another vote on sovereignty for Quebec hasn't been set by Landry, who has been described by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein as a greater threat to unity than outgoing Premier Lucien Bouchard.

Landry was sworn in as premier on Thursday, succeeding Bouchard, who retired.

Aside from the hard-core separatist seekers within the Parti Quebecois, there doesn't appear to be much support for another Quebec referendum.

"People don't want a sovereignty vote in the near future," said Claude Gauthier, head of the CROP polling firm.

A recent poll showed only 12 percent of respondents felt a referendum should precede the provincial election expected in the next two years.

Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest said that after the 1980 and 1995 referendums, Quebeckers want to give the question a long rest.

"If he decides to hold another referendum, he'll be doing it at great risk and peril to his own cause," he said.

Western provinces reassured

Canada's unity leader is trying to appease a disgruntled Western Canada.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stephane Dion tried to reassure Saskatchewan's new premier, Lorne Calvert, that the federal government is sensitive to the province's concerns.

"We need to listen a lot to make sure that we will start this mandate on a good footing," Dion said to the socialist New Democratic premier.

David Sawkiw, a farmer from Preeceville, Saskatchewan, is the leader of the newly formed Western Independent Nation.

"They're treating us like colonies out here and they're not really paying any attention to what our problems really are," said Sawkiw, whose group is discussing the possibility of Western separation.

In brief

A Congolese woman, who entered Canada near death with what was believed at first to be the ebola virus, has left a Hamilton, Ontario, hospital. The tropical illness affecting Colette Matshimoseka, 32, was never determined. Police denied media reports they are investigating possible links between the woman and a diamond smuggling ring.

Mountie Constable Jurgen Seewald, 47, originally from Ontario, was shot and killed while investigating a domestic dispute in Cape Dorest, Nunavut. Salomonie Jaw, 46, the brother of the mayor in the Arctic community, faces a murder charge.

Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day has taken out a $60,000 mortgage on his home to help compensate Alberta taxpayers for settling a controversial lawsuit. Day also apologized to the man who sued him for defamation two years ago when he was an Alberta member of Parliament. The settlement and lawyers' fees cost taxpayers $792,000.

Facts and figures

The Bank of Canada moved to stimulate the economy by cutting its key interest rate by one-half point to 5.25 percent. Banks then trimmed their prime lending rates to 6.75 percent.

Canada's dollar at first gained but then fell back to 64.79 cents U.S. anticipating further interest rate cuts, while the U.S dollar returned $1.5455 in Canadian funds before bank exchange fees.

Stock exchanges were lower, with the Toronto 300 Index at 8,227 points while the Canadian Venture Exchange index was 3,120 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 19, 20, 22, 24, 38 and 42; bonus 41. (March 3) 1, 2, 4, 18, 28 and 35; bonus 8.

Regional briefs

Al Palladini, who became a millionaire car dealer before being elected to the Ontario government, died Wednesday of a heart attack while vacationing in Acapulco, Mexico. Palladini, 57, recently resigned as Ontario's Economic Development and Trade minister, to return to his car business but remained a member of the Legislature.

The public won't immediately learn the results of a conflict of interest report on a casino licensing scandal that forced former British Columbia Premier Glen Clark to resign. The provincial Supreme Court ruled the report will remain sealed until after Clark's trial for fraud and breach of trust.

Nova Scotia's once dominant Liberal Party has dropped to third-party status for the first time. The opposition in the Legislature is now the New Democratic Party after Conservative Cecil Clarke was elected in Cape Breton in a by-election. This dropped the Liberals to 10 members, the New Democrats 11 and the Conservatives 31.

New Brunswick's hospital workers ratified a tentative agreement Tuesday, ending a five-day strike before the provincial government could enact a back-to-work law. The maintenance and clerical staff and registered nursing assistants and lab assistants will receive a raise of 12.5 percent over four years.

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