New Quebec poll says sovereignty debate outdated

10.12.11

I’m taking these results with a big shakerful of salt: A new CROP poll finds that a majority of Quebecers – 63% – are proud to be Canadian, and that 71% feel the sovereignty debate is a thing of the past:

In another sign that Quebecers are rejecting decades of political debate surrounding the Quebec sovereignty issue, the poll found that respondents were reluctant to identify themselves with traditional ideological brands. Only 19 per cent identified themselves as sovereignists, 20 per cent as federalists, 17 per cent as nationalists and eight per cent as autonomists.

The biggest portion of respondents – 37 per cent – did not identify themselves with any of those categories.

Which raises the question of terminology and phrasing. I’m not convinced that the national identity debate is dead; I think it’s just going through a re-branding. Words like “nationalism” and “sovereignty” are turning off the current generation – in both languages. But the sharp divide still remains, possibly reinforced by the Harper government’s massive lack of popularity here in Quebec.

Another thing going on here might be a sense of security. Quebecers, thanks to two generations of protections, now feel like their identity is less threatened than ever before. At the same time, they’re extending beyond borders. The struggles of today are more global and less local in scope, and the nationalism debate is going to naturally seem outdated to a bilingual francophone from HoMa who is organizing a G8 protest and campaigning for human rights in North Africa.

The point is, I don’t think that Quebecers feel more Canadian than they do in the past. I think they’re just less interested in talking constitutional debate.

Still, this is the first cautionary piece of good news that we’ve seen on the federalist side in ages. I’d like to see some reinforcing polling numbers over time, but it could mean good news in terms of how the next provincial election debate will be shaped. Especially if Francois Legault keeps beating the “beyond sovereignty” drum and forcing the other parties to talk about something else. Like, maybe healthcare, or infrastructure, or the economy, or issues of real concern to Quebecers of all political stripes.

One can hope, anyway.

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