Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Weekend At René's

Quebec's separatism, while a fixture of Canadian politics for the past few decades, has always been something of a mystery to me. So after conservatives began using it as boogeyman a couple of years ago to justify cutting the per vote subsidy I decided to explore this phenomenon in greater detail. And what I discovered was quite shocking; despite being paraded around by the media, Quebec separatism had already passed away. It's easy to see this now with the decimation of the Bloc Quebecois, the internal strife within the Parti Quebecois and the stunning CROP poll showing 82% of Quebecers want the PQ to set aside separatism. But even before these most recent events it was relatively easy to note the eulogy had already been delivered.

To begin with, the almost 50% support for Quebec's sovereignty has declined considerably since the 1995 referendum. A year old CROP poll for instance, showed that 58% of Quebecers felt the issue was settled while only 26% felt it was more relevant. An Angus Reid poll from a year earlier showed the divide at 54% to 34%. An even earlier CROP poll had support for Quebec sovereignty at 43%.

Polling aside, what is more damning evidence can be found in many articles on Quebec politics. A 2001 BBC article for instance, spelled out the province's growing disillusionment with separation.
To add to their problems, Quebeckers generally do not approve of the emphasis the PQ is putting on separating from the rest of Canada...
Since coming to power, he [Bernard Landry] has used strong and occasionally controversial language in his efforts to promote Quebec's need for independence to protect its French language and culture.
His efforts to drum up support for separating have not swayed many voters.
This type of language is scattered throughout articles on Quebec politics. But the most decisive evidence of the demise of Quebec separatism is revealed by an Angus Reid analysis to lie in the demographics of the province.
The first of these is a substantial depletion of the number of potential separatist voters. According to Statistics Canada, the population of Quebec will experience little growth through the remainder of this decade (the result of the lowest fertility rate in the developed world.) But the number of Quebecers over 60 will mushroom to about 1.7 million—almost 30 per cent of Quebec’s adult population. Older voters tend to be risk averse, bad news for the separatists.
There’s another million or so non-Francophones who are also decidedly federalist in their orientation. The number of these voters will probably grow during the Charest years, bringing the combination of “Old, English and Ethnic” voters close to 50 per cent of the adult population by the end of the decade.
By then the separatists will need the support of more than 80 per cent of Francophones under 60 to have any chance of winning a referendum.
While this analysis is nearly a decade old, it has proved to be quite prescient. It's been a decade in the making but Quebec separatism isn't simply pining for the fjords.

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