QUEBEC CITY, Quebec -- Robert Bourassa, the premier of Quebec, began a campaign yesterday to convince skeptical Quebecers that an agreement just reached with English-speaking Canada resolves many of their grievances and should end their drive for independence.
With polls signaling an uphill battle to win backing for the accord in a referendum on Oct. 26, the Quebec leader moved to overcome his first major hurdle.
At a special conference of his Liberal Party at Laval University here, supporters of federalism who are allied with Mr. Bourassa beat back opposition to the agreement from nationalist elements in the party. Federalist-backed amendments were overwhelmingly approved.
The younger members, led by a 22-year-old Laval political science student, Mario Dumont, argue that the deal falls short of party demands for a large-scale transfer of power from Ottawa to Quebec. They accused the leadership of packing the conference with supporters to ensure a favorable vote on the federalist platform.
The 58-year-old premier, fresh from a meeting on Prince Edward Island, where he and Canada's other province leaders wrapped up details of the new constitutional package, defended it yesterday to more than 4,000 party stalwarts as a substantial achievement that "protects the future of Quebec."
He promised a bare-knuckles fight with the leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, Jacques Parizeau, who has called Mr. Bourassa a traitor for accepting the deal with the nine other provinces.