Current Affairs Politics

The Winds Of Change – Catalonia And Québec

An Chatalóin (Catalonia)
An Chatalóin (Catalonia)

The drive for autonomy seems to be in the air. We begin with news from the resurgent Iberian nation of Catalonia where the leaders of the main Nationalist parties have agreed on a date for the upcoming independence referendum (albeit with a two-part question to quell the nerves of the conservative CiU government in Barcelona). From the Irish Times:

“After two days of discussions between the parties, Catalan regional premier Artur Mas announced yesterday that the vote will be held on November 9th, 2014.

The referendum question will be in two parts, the first being: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” If the answer to this is yes, another question follows: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?”

“This has great historical importance,” Mr Mas said of the agreement. It will be voted on by the Catalan regional parliament, which pro-independence parties control.

The regional premier’s own CiU coalition and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) have been the political driving forces behind the referendum plan and the ICV greens and left-wing CUP parties also signed off on the accord.

Recent polls show that a narrow majority of Catalans would vote in favour of independence.

However, the two-part question is less strident than some pro-independence factions wanted. It appears to keep the door open to a federal “third way” solution advocated by some, while placating some less independence-minded members of the CiU coalition.”

Both questions seem all but identical and it is hard to escape the feeling that it may well confuse some voters at the polls to the detriment of the independence movement. While recognising a number of “autonomous” regions the Spanish constitution does not support the creation of “federal states” nor is it likely too. So what effect would a vote favouring the former question have?

Caoibec (Québec)
Caoibec (Québec)

Meanwhile in Québec the nationalist Parti Québécois is riding high in the polls despite the ongoing controversy over its plans for a more secular face to public services in La Belle Province. From a report by the “unionist” Globe and Mail newspaper:

“Sovereignty doesn’t appear on the Parti Québécois’s Christmas wish list for this year, but a new public opinion poll has given it renewed hope for the future.

In fact, many Quebeckers already see themselves as politically independent, said Minister of International Affairs Jean-François Lisée, while commenting on a CROP poll showing support for sovereignty at 44 per cent, a three-point increase over the previous CROP poll in November.

The distance between Quebec and Canada is growing. It is as though at many levels Quebec is already independent in its mind, in its way of making decisions,” Mr. Lisée said.

Mr. Lisée called it the “decanadianization” of Quebec and the “dequebecization” of Canada, comparing the relationship to that of an old couple on the brink of divorce.

The PQ minority government is not planning to hold a referendum on political independence any time soon. But the temptation to hold an election early next year may become irresistible if support for the government continues to grow.

The CROP poll published Wednesday in the Montreal daily La Presse and Quebec City’s Le Soleil shows the PQ and the Liberals in a tie at 35 per cent, followed by the Coalition Avenir Québec at 18 per cent and Québec Solidaire at 10 per cent. After 15 months in office, the PQ minority government’s approval rating has jumped to 41 per cent, an increase of nine percentage points over the previous month.

The PQ has also increased its support among the key francophone voters who decide the fate of governments in the province, according to the poll. According to the poll, the PQ now has the support of 40 per cent of francophone voters, compared with 27 per cent for the Liberals and 20 per cent for the CAQ. The government’s approval rating has jumped from a low of 28 per cent last June to 41 per cent in December.”

The rise in support for independence has been marked by increasing tensions in Québec’s “culture wars” with the Anglophone media’s antipathy to Francophones reaching levels not seen in many years. As a result over one hundred leading figures in the nascent nation from the worlds of entertainment, business and politics have signed a document calling for an end to Francophobia from the Anglophone community both locally and in Canada as a whole.

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