Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Examining the Intolerance Numbers

A friend tweeted thusly:
So, I decided to take a look at the slides, using my best French.... well, not hard since numbers are numbers, right, Hugo?

Before getting to them, one thing to keep in context: the way the ridings (districts) are drawn in Quebec, Montreal is under-represented.  Combine that with the "safe seats" where the Anglophones have local majorities on parts of the island of Montreal, it means that Montreal is almost entirely irrelevant for provincial campaigns.  For referenda, it is different, because then Montreal is a big hunk of votes.  And that leads to a real conflict between the short term and long term interests of the Parti Quebecois--the strategies to win elections to run the place compete pretty directly with the requirements to win an independence referendum.  So, embracing of the short term here suggests that the PQ has given up on independence.  

Anyhow, the latest polls suggest some interesting stuff.  First, the PQ is actually behind the Liberals by a smidge (p.4).  Not surprising given the PQ's performance but it also shows that the PQ has not gotten a bounce yet from the Charter debate.  Of course, it could if Harper gets too loud about it.  The other thing to note from this is, of course, that the PQ faces a two front war for the nationalist vote as the CAQ competes for the xenophobes just a bit (as the successor to the ADQ) and Quebec Solidaire claims to be more faithfully separatist.  Nationalism is a many splendored thing, and Quebec demonstrates that two threads of Quebec nationalism are a bit at  war--the separatism vs. the xenophobia.

Page 6 addresses the Charter of Quebec Values.  Turns out that it is not so rabidly popular, at least in this poll with a statistical tie between yes and no.  Francophones favor it but not decisively so--49%.  Funny that Allophones are less opposed than Anglophones, but Allophones refers to those whose first language is not English nor French.  They are a diverse lot, with some not so opposed to a fistful of secularity.  Montrealers are not so favorable, but also not so opposed.  This result is not quite the unanimity that is represented by the various municipal councils on the island.

Page 8 reveals that the PQ may not be that dumb after all: the Liberal voters are not fans, but those are largely lost to the PQ; the PQ voters are huge fans so the PQ is playing to the base; but most importantly the CAQ, the rival for the Francophone vote, is divided pretty evenly.  So, one could see this legislation to be aimed both at energizing the base (says something sad that this is the base of the PQ) and dividing a key competitor. 
The other slides address various nuances--such as whether there is a problem, who should be banned from wearing religious garb, etc.

From the standpoint of political science, this makes a heap of sense: when a homogeneous party faces a heterogeneous one, the temptation/logical thing to do is to outbid the heterogeneous one--promise to be the best defender of the group's interests.  This would weaken the heterogeneous one and strengthen the homogenous one.  Of course, it depends on the numbers involved, but with Quebec having large majorities of Francophones and a majorities of non-religious folks (people who do not wear large crosses, kippas, turbans, hijabs, etc), the PQ is just doing what makes sense for the party.... in the short term.

The problem is that in the long run that any vote on independence will lose because they need to have cross-over voters for that, and today's minorities are unlikely to do that tomorrow.  To be clear, the PQ does not have the Republican problem quite yet--the demographic trends are not as dangerous to the PQ's future chances in part because stances like this will continue to encourage immigrants to move to other parts of Canada.  See, xenophobia can work!

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