Don Macpherson has a good column in today's Gazette, discussing how the PQ is playing up the latest numbers about language and Montreal to distract from, well, that it is falling apart. The new stats show that the number of "true Francophones" is declining in Montreal because they are moving to less expensive (and perhaps more infrastructurally sound) suburbs. This is hardly a crisis as they are not being replaced by those nasty Anglophones (that would be me) but Allophones (immigrants) who speak multiple languages and increasingly use French at home.
So, what is going on?
Blanchet's proposal ... Its real purpose is political. It's to prevent François Legault's new nationalist party from outflanking the PQ in the defence of the French-speaking majority against the minorities.* The PQ learned its lesson in 2007, when it conceded that defence to Mario Dumont's Action démocratique du Québec and temporarily fell to third-party status as a result. Two weeks ago, Legault presented a discussion paper on identity in which most of the proposals were considerably weaker than what the PQ had already proposed in its new program.
But what caught attention was a possibly coded appeal to xenophobia that the PQ hadn't thought of: a temporary, symbolic reduction in annual immigration targets. Now the PQ has quickly matched Legault's proposal with a similar one of its own. The proposal is also intended to distract attention toward the identity question and away from the PQ's current problems.
* I discussed this recently.Yep, we have some ethnic outbidding going on here, with the old, fractious nationalists competing with the new kids on the block to be the best nationalists after the new kids had initially appeared to be putting this stuff behind them. Of course they did not--playing with identity, in this case it is language, is too damned convenient.
Can I be disappointed without being surprised?
Even more interesting was MacPherson's August 30th column. He discussed a recent opinion poll which recorded that 32% of those Quebecers who voted NDP would vote "yes" in a referendum on sovereignty. Well, 32% of 42.9% (which is the percentage of Quebecers who voted NDP) is 14%. Add that 14% to the 23% who voted for the Bloc Quebecois (of which, it is safe to say, 100% would vote "yes" in a referendum) and you get a figure of 37% who would vote "yes". Sounds like a relatively low figure until you consider:
1) support for sovereignty comes and goes in waves. We are on the LOW part of the sovereignty curve now. When Trudeau left office in the mid '80s, support for sovereignty was in the low teens. A few short years and one perceived humiliation later (ie, the failure of the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord) and sovereignty support was back in the 50-60% range. Demographer Pierre Drouilly estimated that 60% of francophones voted "yes" in 1995. Francophones constitute 80% of Quebec's population, hence the 60% figure translated into more than a 49% "yes" vote in the 1995 sovereignty referendum which the pro-Canada side only won by a whisker.
2) the 37% I calculated above is virtually 100% francophones. We can safely say that because, again according to Drouilly and his detailed studies of language group voting patterns in referendums approximately 99% of anglophones and 95% of allophones (who together constitute roughly 20% of Quebec's population) voted "no". Assuming these patterns hold true for today, the 80% of the population that is francophone means that about 47% of francophones would TODAY --in an alleged period in which sovereignty is claimed to be dead-vote "yes".
3) 47% is more than 75% of the way to 60%.
4) It doesn't take much for Quebec to be "humiliated" --like another Meech --and for the numbers to spike in favour of sovereignty once again. Here's a humiliation that will do the trick (and is bound to happen): NDP members outside of Quebec will wake up one morning soon and realize the implications of the UDI-supporting and UDI-enabling Sherbrooke Declaration. Despite their left-leaning, Quebec-appeasing tendencies, the potential for this policy to help end Canada wi not sit well with them. In convention, they will get it reversed. This will not only split the NDP but most of the Quebec Caucus will switch to the Bloc Oh, and it will be perceived as an even GREATER humililiation than Meech.
Conclusion: sovereignty is very much alive in Quebec.
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