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Quebec Premier Weighs Referendum

April 3, 1998

MONTREAL (AP) _ Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, whose separatist government’s platform calls for another referendum on leaving Canada, said Friday he won’t hold the vote if a majority of Quebeckers don’t want it.

``There will be a referendum if the conditions are there for us to win it,″ Bouchard said in a television interview. ``One of the conditions is that people want it.″

``If we see that a significant majority of people don’t want one, that’s not a winning condition,″ he said.

According to a poll released Friday by the SOM polling firm, 63 percent of Quebeckers believe Bouchard should scrap plans for a new independence referendum if he is re-elected, compared with 30 percent who said he should go ahead. The margin of error was 3.6 percentage points.

Bouchard led the separatists to the brink of victory in a 1995 secession referendum, with his side winning 49.4 percent of the votes.

He declined to say what he would do if the Parti Quebecois lost the next provincial election, which will likely be held this fall or in the spring of 1999.

``I’m not considering the hypothesis of a defeat,″ he said. ``I’m working on a victory.″

Recent polls indicate that if the election were held now, Bouchard would lose to Jean Charest, who has left his seat in the federal Parliament to take over as head of Quebec’s Liberal Party _ the main anti-separatist force in Quebec.

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