EXPLAINED: Do Canadians want Quebec separation?

The idea of Quebec separation, long thought dormant, has resurfaced in Canadian political discourse, sparking renewed interest in the Parti Québécois (PQ) among Quebecers. While the fervor for separatism may not be as strong as in the past, the PQ, founded in 1968 with the aim of creating an independent Quebec, has experienced a resurgence under the leadership of Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. Despite facing skepticism from some quarters, St-Pierre Plamondon’s Gen X perspective and bold advocacy for separation, including proposals for a standing army and a Quebec currency, have invigorated the party.

The PQ’s recent electoral successes, such as winning a byelection in the traditionally Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)-held riding of Jean-Talon, reflect a broader disillusionment with the current CAQ government. Elected in 2018 under François Legault’s leadership, the CAQ promised to shift focus away from Quebec separation and prioritize economic issues. However, a series of scandals and broken promises have eroded public confidence in the party, particularly in its stronghold of Quebec City.

The PQ’s gains can also be attributed to a decline in support for the CAQ, as evidenced by numerous polls showing a steady increase in PQ popularity. Philippe Fournier, an analyst, notes that the PQ directly benefits from the CAQ’s waning support. However, despite the PQ’s resurgence, polls indicate that most Quebecers remain hesitant about another referendum on sovereignty, favoring continued Canadian unity.

St-Pierre Plamondon’s challenge lies in convincing Quebecers of the merits of independence. While he has pledged to hold a referendum if elected, many view him more as a capable provincial leader than a champion of separatism. The PQ’s task now is to not only rally its traditional base but also to attract new supporters to the cause of sovereignty.

Looking ahead, the dynamics of Quebec politics remain fluid. The upcoming leadership selection within the federalist Quebec Liberal Party could inject new energy into the political landscape, potentially drawing support away from the CAQ. If this trend continues, Quebecers may witness a further decline in the CAQ’s fortunes and a resurgence of the age-old debate over Quebec’s place within Canada.

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