Reports indicate the RCMP is looking into Option Canada’s $ 4.8 million funding from the Canadian Heritage department in the lead up to the 1995 referendum on sovereignty.
Option Canada was an entirely independent non-profit organization.
This is not an RCMP investigation.
Due to allegations, rumoured to be on the verge of publication by reporter Normand Lester, the Canadian Heritage department proactively referred the matter to the RCMP.
We must also not forget that these allegations are not new or particularly relevant. The Bloc has criticized the existence of Option Canada in the House for the last 10 years.
Option Canada's funding was the subject of an internal audit by the Department of Canadian Heritage in 1996, the findings of which were sent to the Auditor General. The funding was also the subject of numerous reports, all of which were made public and tabled in the House of Commons.
It is indeed true that the Government of Canada committed spending to promote its position during the pre-referendum period in 1995.
The fact that the Government of Canada defended the principle of Canadian unity could not be more normal.
Indeed, on pages 15 and 16 of its current platform, the Parti québécois clearly states that it will, if elected, commit public funds to promote Québec sovereignty. It spells out that if elected, the Parti québécois will appoint a minister responsible for achieving sovereignty, and ensure that each department of the Government of Québec drafts an action plan for sovereignty as well.
This is in no way different from the Parti québécois’ behaviour in the lead up to the 1995 referendum. The péquiste government then had set up a department, the Secrétariat à la restructuration, headed by minister Richard Le Hir and endowed with a $ 9.4 million budget.
That’s over and above all other PQ government expenditures to promote sovereignty:
- Regional and national commissions on the future of Quebec: $8.5 million
- Conseil de la souveraineté (pre-referendum activities): $4 million
- Government mailings (draft bill on Quebec sovereignty): $3 million
- Lobbying the government of the United States: $500,000
- The YES Committee: $2.5 million
Not to mention:
- Hydro Québec's "René Lévesque" promotional campaign: $2.8 million
- The "intercultural ties" campaign: $1.2 million