Despite (or perhaps because of) all the controversy surrounding the proposals by the Parti Québécois to restrict the display of overtly religious symbols in public workplaces the formerly lacklustre PQ government in Québec is now riding high in the polls. Unsurprisingly rumours of a snap election are circulating in both the Francophone and Anglophone media, albeit much to the alarm of the latter. From the Globe and Mail, a Canadian “Unionist” newspaper:
“It is as sure as anything can be in politics: Quebec Premier Pauline Marois will call an election on March 11 for a vote on April 14. And why wouldn’t she? According to the latest CROP poll published Tuesday in La Presse, the Parti Québécois is virtually assured of winning a majority.
This poll confirms the tendency shown by previous polls conducted by different firms over the past few months: the gradual rise of the PQ government’s popularity and the corresponding downfall of the Opposition Liberals, who are losing ground under the ineffective leadership of Philippe Couillard.
This turn of events is surprising for those who remember how demoralized the PQ government was a year ago, but there are explanations: The Charter on secularism boosted the PQ among francophones, especially older ones and those living outside Montreal, who resent the visible presence of Muslim immigrants [ASF: a dubious explanation to say the least. Though initially unpopular the suggested legislation has also found some support amongst young urban voters who don’t see it as an anti-Moslem policy but a pro-secular one]; while catering to the conservative nationalist voters with its identity politics, the government has acquired some credibility on the economic front by silencing its radical environmentalist wing and making peace with the mining companies. Ms. Marois now appears to be an enthusiastic promoter of foreign investment and development, including the exploration of oil fields that might exist in the province, and the pipeline project to bring tar-sands oil to the east.
If the PQ wins a majority of seats, it will be free to pass the two controversial bills that were blocked by the opposition: the charter bill that restricts the rights of religious minorities, and the language bill that will force the “francization” of small enterprises. Will it push for sovereignty? It will certainly try to, but on this issue, everything will depend on the polls. The PQ will never again call for a referendum it isn’t sure of winning handsomely.”
While some Canadian nationalists/federalists still cling to the hope that another referendum campaign is untenable given the current economic climate others are facing up to a much more likely reality – given the “Self-Determination Spring” sweeping Europe, from Scotland to Catalonia, it is highly improbable that Québec will be far behind those other would-be nation-states.
Meanwhile in Ireland, when is a British Unionist (and separatist) politician not a British Unionist (and separatist) politician? The seemingly logical, if actually fallacious, argument about nationality versus socio-economic self-preservation is one many Québécois will find wearily familiar.