IS SEPARATISM DEAD?

Now that Labour Day has come and gone can the political season in Quebec be far behind? And what an exciting political season it’s likely to be.

For openers the separatists are on the ropes. Big time. In a recent column in The Globe and Mail, the distinguished Quebec commentator, Lysiane Gagnon, wrote this: “The sovereigntist movement is dead, at least as a major poltitical force, and the first to admit it are the sovereigntists themselves.. …”

Now reduced to third-party status in the National Assembly, all the recent polls bear out Gagnon’s contention that the PQ’s primary option is dead in the water. Support for sovereignty is down to 32 per cent; 68 per cent of Quebeckers want the PQ to relinquish its sovereigntist option. And get this, 48 percent of PQ voters want it to do so.

Eighty-three per cent of Quebeckers think this province will still be a part of Canada in 10 years. Moreover, 86 per cent of Quebeckers say they are “proud to be Canadians.”

What’s more the PQ leader, Pauline Marois, has taken sovereignty off the table. It is the party’s raison d’etre but it simply won’t fly for now. Perhaps never. True, there will always be a coterie of hard line separatists in Quebec, but they are dead as the dodo bird.

If not dead, moribund.

Do you agree.

10 Comments »

  1. 1
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Support for separatism in Quebec, like the phenomenon of global warming, comes and goes in cycles. When Pierre Trudeau left office in the mid ’80s, support for separatism — as evidenced by public opinion polls — was in single digits. Only a few short years later and the “humiliation” of Meech Lake, a majority supported separatism (culminating in the near win for the “yes” side in the ’95 referendum).
    The 32% support cited by Mr. McKenty is an incredibly high figure for several reasons:
    1) When you consider that, currently, we are pretty much at the bottom of a downcycle, 32% is incredibly high. Compare that to the single digit support in the downcycle of the mid-eighties when separatism was also experiencing a bottoming-out of support.
    2) Time and time again, demographic studies have conclusively demonstrated that support for separatism is virtually nil on the non-francophone side (Professor Pierre Drouilly has consistently shown this with his post-referendum and post-election studies). Thus, that 32% is virtually ALL on the francophone side, which represents approximately 80% of Quebec’s total population. Therefore, that 32% figure is actually 40% of just francophones. Just over 60% of francophones voted “yes” in the ’95 referendum when we came within a whisker of a “yes” majority. 40% is not that far off from 60%. All we need is another “humiliation” and that 40% will become 70% or 80%. Just wait…doesn’t take much to create a “humiliation”.
    3) One of the reasons political pundits claim support for separatism is on the wane is the poor showing by the PQ in the most recent Quebec general election in which the PQ came in third. As unpopular as this is to ask, it must be: what percent of potential PQ voters didn’t vote PQ solely because of the sexual persuasion of its leader? This is sad to have to bring up and to even have to comment upon but such biases are found across political lines and the Quebec hinterlands — where support for the PQ is much stronger than in the cities — such biases may be more pronounced. With a new leader this support very well may reappear.

  2. 2

    Tony – Your analysis of separatist strength is very persuasive. And it may very well be that under Pauline Marois the PQ could return to power in the next election.
    But I don’t think that should be read as a return to separatism.

    As I expect you will agree, the only factor that allowed the sovereigntist option to survive for so many years is that sovereigntist leaders always promised sovereignty would come hand in hand with a strong association and a close political partnership with the rest of Canada. I don’t see the P.Q. ever winning on a referendum dealing with out and out independence.

    Besides, thanks to Stephen Dion, there is always the Clarity Act. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

  3. 3
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    I agree that coupling sovereignty with ties to Canada has kept support for such a defined “separation” high.
    However, from the perspective of the Separatist who wants Quebec to become an independent nation, I believe it was a mistake on the part of the PQ in both referendums NOT to ask a clear question along the lines of what you term “out and out independence”, such as: “Do you want Quebec to be an independent nation, yes or no?”.
    Had that been the question in 1980, the results, admittedly, would have been far less than the 40% recorded; however, whatever the result would have been would have served as a hard-rock foundation upon which to build…one without any ambiguity as to what “independence” means. Without doubt, “yes” support for such a hard question would have significantly increased by 1995 although, again, the results would have been less than the 49% the “yes” got with the soft question.
    Bottom line: is Quebec a nation or isn’t it. If it is in the hearts and minds of Quebecers, then Quebec will, by hook or by crook, eventually become a nation. And no resolution by the Canadian parliament recognizing Quebec as a nation will placate that desire. Indeed, such moves will only serve to encourage and propel Quebec towards independence because insults and humiliations tend to have that effect.
    The Quebecois will soon enough ask: are we a pretend nation or a real nation? If we are a real nation, calling us a nation in name only (which is what that resolution, in effect, did) insults us.
    We want to be a real nation.

  4. 4

    I would agree, as both Harper and Dion say that Quebec is a nation in a sociological sense having a shared history, a distinct language and a defined territory.

    But Quebec is not a nation in a political sense and, if present trends continue, will never become one.

  5. 5
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Yes, I agree, if present trends continue, Quebec will never become an independent nation.

    I, however, will do everything in my power to work towards Quebec becoming a separate, independent nation.

    As William Johnson said on Neil McKenty’s TV show circa 1989: I would rather live in an independent Quebec that respected human rights than in a Quebec within Canada that didn’t.

  6. 6

    Tony – You have one hell of a memory. I can’t even remember Bill Johnson (who is a friend of mine) being on my TV show but it’s a darned good quote.

  7. 7
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Actually, the reason I didn’t put the citation in quotation marks was because I was working on memory. I have since got off my lazy behind and walked the five feet to my filing cabinet and found the exact quote and exact date of the “McKenty Live” broadcast:

    “I would rather see a sovereign Quebec that respected
    freedoms, respected rights, than see a federalistic
    Quebec that violates freedoms, that puts fanaticism as
    an instrument of government policy.”
    William Johnson on “McKenty Live”; CFCF-TV; December 19, 1988

  8. 8
    -B Says:

    Everyone knows that you are supposed to have a violent civil war when someone wants to separate from your country. This peaceful voting stuff is completely ridiculous.

  9. 9

    B – Well, that’s interesting. We had two referenda in Quebec on whether or not the province should separate from Canada and there wasn’t a whiff of violence anywhere. We are pretty mature and sophisticated about our politics up here. Maybe its because our winters are so cold.

  10. 10
    B Says:

    I think it has something to do with hockey and/or Molsen. But you are missing out on a lot by not having the civil war. The flags, the documentaries, the aftermath… It just isn’t proper to meander about ‘voting’ on such a thing when you could be engaging in fiery oratory and even more fiery artillery. Seriously. You Canadians need a national discussion on this point.


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