Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Quebec election shows separatist option dead

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Quebec voters go to the polls Monday, but no matter what happens, one thing is clear: The prospect of la belle province separating from Canada is all but dead. Vive le Canada.

Not only do most Quebecers not want to live in an independent country, they don't even want to hold a referendum on the issue. They've been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Twice.

When Parti Québécois Premier Pauline Marois called the election six weeks ago, she was careful, even obsessive, about avoiding any talk of a potential referendum if her party formed a majority.

It was obvious to her, too, that Quebecers, including many who support sovereignty, did not welcome the idea of another divisive and emotionally exhausting debate about the future of Quebec-Canada relations.

As many as 40 per cent of francophones in Quebec have a romantic attachment to the idea of an independent Quebec, but many within that group recognize Quebec is already a nation that effectively operates as a distinct society.

The threat of separation has been a good bargaining chip for Quebec since the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, but you can only play the same hand so many times before the other players at the table call your bluff.

A recent poll shows 18 per cent of Quebecers said they are casting votes for only one reason -- to stop another referendum. Only 19 per cent of PQ supporters say they are voting for the party to support a potential referendum.

As opinion polls showed Quebecers turning away from her party, Ms. Marois returned to talking about the secular values charter, which was popular with a majority of Quebecers.

The more she talked about it, however, the more problematic it became. Do Quebecers really want to see some of their highly skilled professionals fired from government service?

Some of them may not like religious symbols in their face, but it seems doubtful they want to spark an embarrassing exodus of refugees in search of religious freedom.

The charter was further undermined when Ms. Marois announced she would use the federal notwithstanding clause in writing the legislation, even though she had earlier told Quebecers it was already perfectly legal.

The latest poll shows only 24 per cent of PQ supporters are voting for the party because of the charter.

The best hope for Quebec, and for Canada, is a Liberal majority.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2014 A16

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