Friday, August 10, 2012

Demography of Quebec Politics

No, I am not a demographer, I just play one on TV my blog.  I left Quebec behind when I moved to Ottawa, but I cannot help but pay attention to the election there.  So glad I got out before it was called.

Anyway, the stat of the morning is that apparently only 36% of Francophones think that Anglophones play a constructive role in Quebec politics.  There are many ways to read this, but here is my interpretation of this result. 
  1. Because of the nationalist politics of the past thirty or forty years, the Anglophones have had only one real choice--the Provincial Liberals.  The Parti Quebecois is not only separatist but regularly promises policies that threaten the interests of the Anglophones--limiting job opportunities, undermining educational opportunities (always the threat for "proportionate" funding of higher education--which means cutting the money going to McGill, Concordia, and Bishop's), and so on.  It is most clear that Anglophones would not be very welcome in an independent Quebec, given the politics and promises of the past.
  2. Third parties have generally been vague about their preferences about a future referendum on independence.  The ADQ was "autonomist" but did not rule out independence.  The new third party, the CAQ, had until yesterday or the day before said that it would not seek a referendum for ten years.  Only in the past couple of days has its leader, Francois Legault ruled out a referendum or the goal of independence entirely.  Given his past stances, one could understand why a federalist might be dubious.
  3. Given this reality, Anglophones had only one choice--to vote for the Liberals.  Which means that they can be taken for granted.  That the Anglophones could not and probably still cannot reasonably threaten to take their votes and go to another party.  
  4. Which makes it damn hard to be constructive.  How do you induce political change, how do you get politicians to focus on good governance, if your vote really hangs on the nationalist question?  Francophones can swing as much as they want because nationalist issues are just some of their concerns.  They have political power because they can choose any party without fear of new laws being enacted to discriminate and even disenfranchise them.  But with Marois positing policies that redefine Citizenship in ways that marginalize minorities, the Anglos have no place to go.
Of course, not being constructive does not mean one is destructive or considered destructive.  That would be an interesting question to ask: are Anglophones a destructive influence on Quebec politics?  Certainly, the majority of potential voters consider the Liberals to be a bad thing according to current polls (with PQ getting over 30% and CAQ at around 25%).  Given that the Liberals need their Anglophone voters (despite selling them out on a regular basis) to stay in power, it is not hard to see how those opposed to Charest and the Liberal party might identify the key Anglo constituency is not constructive.  Given that they would see Charest losing power as constructive, the Anglos ain't constructive.

So, either way you look at it, this particular finding is not surprising.  It has multiple meanings, of course, and we can draw whatever implications we want.  Which is why polls like this are like Rorschach tests--we see what we want to see.  I see a powerless bloc of voters.  Others see a key constituency of a government that sucks.

Yes, the Charest government sucks.  But a PQ government would suck more, especially for Anglos.  Hence the dilemma.


Anonymous said...

Il est amusant de constater que les anglos canadiens (via la revue Macleans) prétendent que les politiciens Québécois sont corrompus... or, les anglos québécois votent pour le parti le plus corrompu des partis politiques soit le PLQ!!!

Steve Saideman said...

I have long argued that the corruption is facilitated by the nationalist politics. If Anglos didn't have to worry about the PQ pushing for a referendum and/or abridging their rights/opportunities, Anglos would not be pushed to choose corrupt party. Of course, PQ also corrupt because again as long as voters are distracted by nationalist issues, PQ can ignore "good governance."