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Canada's Chretien Courts Quebec With Quebeckers

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IN order to counter rising Quebec nationalism and restore his flagging credibility as a leader, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has brought two "wise men" from Quebec into his Cabinet.

Mr. Chretien touted the appointment of two men in their 40s as a "generational change" for his government. Analysts say the appointment of two political greenhorns outside his own government is risky and shows how desperate he is to get a handle on the Quebec situation and reverse current trends.

Chretien's move closely follows former Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who, wary of rising Quebec nationalism, did much the same thing in 1965. Pearson brought to his Cabinet three "wise men" from Quebec, including Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who later became a prime minister.

Chretien's major Cabinet shuffle, which involved a number of other personnel shifts, came last Thursday but had been anticipated for months.

Stephane Dion, a well-known Quebec political commentator, and Pierre Pettigrew, a respected businessman and former top political adviser, give Chretien's government a badly needed credibility boost among Quebeckers in the fight to keep Quebec from leaving Canada.

In Chretien's case, however, the shuffle quickly grew more important than usual as public support for his government has slipped since the narrow victory of federalists for Canadian unity in a Quebec secession referendum Oct. 30.

Today Lucien Bouchard, who led the separatists to near victory and also gave the separatist cause a big morale boost, will be sworn in as Quebec's new premier. He has promised to lead the province to independence in another referendum to be held sometime in the next two years.


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