News Canada

Sovereignty not top of mind for Quebecers

Giuseppe Valiante, QMI Agency
Supporters of the Parti Quebecois celebrate their win Tuesday night. (MAXIME DELAND/QMI AGENCY)

Supporters of the Parti Quebecois celebrate their win Tuesday night. (MAXIME DELAND/QMI AGENCY)


The cheering for the Parti Quebecois' election victory Tuesday night likely stopped at the Ottawa River, as a separatist party replaced a federalist one.

However, there are at least two factors that make Quebec sovereignty a weak threat.

The first is that Tuesday night's preliminary election results placed the PQ in minority territory and the other separatist parties in Quebec's legislature didn't have enough seats to prop it up. If Tuesday night's riding predictions hold, the PQ will need the Quebec Liberal Party or the upstart Coalition Avenir Quebec to pass legislation. Both those parties are not sovereigntist.

Moreover, there doesn't seem to be that much furor for sovereignty among the province's electorate. Recent polls revealed that sovereignty is not a priority among Quebecers - the most recent survey placed support for sovereignty at 28%.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, a non-profit think-tank based in Montreal, said the PQ will not be able to pass all the legislation it promised to.

"It's not a big victory for the PQ," he said. "The mandate that they have isn't as strong of a mandate as they need."

The PQ's proposed legislation, such as ending the university tuition increase or strengthening the province's language laws, has now been put in question.

Moreover, PQ Leader Pauline Marois admitted during the campaign period that a minority government would not help sovereignty, but would curtail it.

"Definitely not significant progress for the sovereignty movement - in fact in some ways it's a setback for the sovereignty movement," Jedwab said.

QMI Agency asked people at the PQ's electoral headquarters Tuesday night in downtown Montreal, what the new government's first priority should be.

Not one person said "sovereignty."

Marlyne Harpin was holding a Quebec flag at the downtown venue as QMI Agency declared the PQ victorious. She said the government's first priority should be to "restore Quebecers confidence in democracy. It's really been rattled by (Liberal leader Jean) Charest. Democracy is the people. They need to regain their confidence."

Xavier Saint-Germain, standing at the back of the room and wearing the red square, symbol of the student movement, said the government's priority should "not be sovereignty - not right away. But it should be to fix economy, family medicine, things like that."

Rachel, who was holding a rolled up Quebec flag, said that the government's first priority should be "to work in the interests of the common good instead of private interests. The Liberals were about business and filling their pockets."