SEPTEMBER 12, 1994


The United Nations recently reported that Canada enjoys the highest standard of living in the world, but some Canadians seem intent on dissolving their nation.

On the eve of the September 12 election, the separatist Parti Quebecois appears certain to form a majority government in French-speaking Quebec province.

Quebec voters are so disgruntled with the economy and English Canada's attitude that they may elect a premier who has vowed that

Parti Quebecois leader Jacques Parizeau portrays Quebec's separation as an amicable divorce, but the consequences of redrawing the map could be severe. Parizeau has claimed that Quebec will be granted full status within the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade within months of sovereignty--ideas which are scoffed at by Quebec's Liberal Party, which currently forms the government.

An independent Quebec also poses other problems: Canada's four eastern maritime provinces would be physically cut off, leaders of the western provinces have begun to talk about autonomy and native groups in northern Quebec want self-determination.

Most Canadians hope that Quebec's voters want to change governments, not passports. Polls indicate that the number of Quebecois favoring sovereignty remains slightly under 50 percent. Nevertheless, the more Quebec edges toward separation, the greater the stress on Canada's unity.