Something Is Brewing In Quebec



With all eyes focused on the election noise in Alberta over the past few weeks, I haven’t really been able to sneak in any commentary about developments in other parts of the country.

Allow me to rectify that now.

There’s something brewing in Quebec.

In March, a Leger survey commissioned for the French-language newspaper Le Devoir found that 38% of Quebecers would vote in favour of sovereignty if a referendum were held today.

This represents a big jump from December 2020, when a similar poll found only 27% of Quebecers supported sovereignty.

This resurgence in support mirrors a rise in the fortunes of the long-presumed dead Parti Quebecois (PQ).

Their enigmatic leader, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, has breathed new life into the PQ and it has seen a serious resurgence in provincial polling.

Whether the proverbial sabre-rattling of the PQ is the cause of the renewed support for sovereignty, or vice versa, is unclear. 

But, either way, the sovereignty movement is - once again - alive and well in La Belle Province.

In fact, sovereigntist sentiment has made such a comeback that Quebec Premier François Legault has been forced to acquiesce to many of the PQ's policy demands in order to maintain his own popularity. 

These demands included passing a Bill that abolished the requirement for Quebec MNAs to swear allegiance to the crown - in spite of the fact that the requirement is embedded in the Canadian constitution.

While this may seem like a small thing, the more Quebec gets away with, the more they are likely to try to get away with in the future.

And we suspect the PQ’s support is only going to grow further from here.

With a governing party that is sympathetic, and strong “opposition” from the PQ, you can almost guarantee that Quebec will continue to push the constitutional order of Canada to the brink.

The PQ’s rise from the dead also gives Quebec’s sovereigntist movement an added advantage in the sense that Ottawa will be much more likely to acquiesce to Quebec’s demands if they’re worried about an even more radical future PQ government.

In fact, we’ve started to see evidence of this already.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the federal government announced the extension of the equalization program for an additional five years, despite protests by Saskatchewan and, of course, Alberta’s 2021 referendum to abolish equalization entirely.

The imbalance of the program is a major source of tension in Confederation, with western Canada paying heavily into equalization, while Quebec is the major beneficiary - using the program to fund lavish social programs, subsidized by western Canadian tax dollars.

That being said, rather than seeing the rise of Quebec sovereignty as a threat, it could serve as a potential opportunity for the western provinces.

There are actually a large number of policy areas, such as tax collection and immigration control (to name just a few), where the west and Quebec actually both want the same thing from the federal government.

We should also remember that the power balance of Canada has changed dramatically in recent years.

Western Canada has exploded in both population and economic activity, and has been the fastest-growing region in Canada over the past few decades.

Unlike in the past, the west now has as much, if not more, economic clout than Quebec.

This hasn’t yet been fully reflected in political clout - but over time it will.

And as that shift continues, we should remember that our differences should be celebrated, not disparaged.

Canada is a huge country, with diverse regions each with unique aspirations.

And the best way to protect that diversity is through more provincial autonomy.

In other words, if there’s one thing the west and Quebec can agree on, it’s less Ottawa!


Josh Andrus
Executive Director
Project Confederation

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