Toronto, ON – With the election of the Parti Quebecois on September 4th as the new government of Quebec under the leadership of incoming premier Pauline Marois – the first separatist government in nearly a decade – a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of Global Television and Postmedia News has revealed that if Canada were to negotiate the terms of a separation with Quebec, most would want the rest of Canada to negotiate an outright breakup of the country, rather than a political or economic association. Furthermore, a majority Quebecers and those in the rest of Canada would expect the “clear majority” threshold to be set quite high at two-thirds or 66%, and not just a bare majority of 50% + 1, as was the case in 1995.
The last Quebec referendum, in 1995, asked Quebecers if the province should become sovereign “after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership”. If another referendum occurs and succeeds based on a “clear majority”, and the rest of Canada negotiates the separation of Quebec, six in ten (57%) of those in the rest of Canada (ROC) believe that the rest of Canada should ‘only negotiate an outright break-up’, compared to four in ten (43%) who believe that the rest of Canada should ‘negotiate a continuation of some political and economic ties to a separate Quebec’.
In Quebec, however, the sentiment is reversed, showing that English Canada and French Canada are not on the same page about what would happen should a referendum on sovereignty succeed. Three quarters (74%) of Quebecers believe that the rest of Canada should negotiate political and economic ties, while just one quarter (24%) believe the rest of Canada should negotiate an outright breakup.
Marois has said that as leader of the PQ she is committed to holding another sovereignty referendum. A federal law, the Clarity Act, says that if there is another referendum, the rest of Canada would be compelled to negotiate the terms of a breakup with Quebec if a “clear majority” of Quebecers supports separation in the referendum. The meaning of the term “clear majority” is not defined, but Canadians have weighed in on what that means in this context, and on this topic the view of Quebecers and those in the ROC are not wide apart.
The data revealed that a majority (55%) of Quebecers and those in the rest of Canada (67%) believe that the threshold for a “yes” vote in a referendum should be no lower than a two-thirds majority of 66%. Below are the percentage of those in Quebec and outside of Quebec who believe that a “clear majority” is achieved at the following thresholds:
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With the PQ in power in Quebec, seven in ten (70%) ‘agree’ (23% strongly/475 somewhat) that ‘separatist sentiment in Quebec will be stronger than it has been under Premier Jean Charest’. Conversely, three in ten (30%) ‘disagree’ (6% strongly/24% somewhat).
During the campaign, Pauline Marois promised that, if elected, her government will demand that Prime Minister Harper transfer some of the federal government’s powers, such as control over Employment Insurance, over to the province. In response to this kind of demand, eight in ten (82%) Canadians living outside of Quebec believe that ‘Prime Minister Stephen Harper should reject this demand because these programs are national in scope and best run by the Federal Government’, compared to just two in ten (18%) in the rest of Canada that more closely believe that he should ‘accept this demand because Quebec knows its unique needs and can run these programs better than the Federal Government’.
In the past, when the PQ was in power, the Canadian Prime Minister was from Quebec and led by a party that had strong representation in Quebec. However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is from Calgary and only five Conservative MPs are from Quebec.
Reflecting on this new reality, six in ten (61%) Canadians ‘agree’ (18% strongly/44% somewhat) that the victory by the PQ ‘will be bad for the relationship between the federal government and Quebec because the Prime Minister is not from Quebec’. Four in ten (39%) Canadians ‘disagree’ (10% strongly/29% somewhat) with this assertion.
However, the opinions of those in the ROC and Quebec aren’t aligned on whether the lack of MPs from Quebec in government is bad for Canada. While seven in ten (70%) Quebecers ‘agree’ that ‘it is bad for all of Canada that so few MPs from Quebec are in the federal government’, just 35% of those in the ROC agree that this is bad. In fact, most in the ROC ‘disagree’ (70%), while just 30% of Quebecers disagree that it is bad for Canada.
Overall, four in ten (38%) Canadians ‘agree’ (7% strongly/31% somewhat) that ‘it makes no difference to Quebecers that so few MPs from their province are in the federal government’, while most (62%) ‘disagree’ (13% strongly/49% somewhat) that Quebecers don’t care that it is under-represented on the government benches, believing that it does in fact care.
But being under-represented on the government side of the House doesn’t appear to mean that Quebec’s voice isn’t heard. Two in three (64%) Canadians, overall, ‘agree’ (10% strongly/54% somewhat) that ‘the federal NDP members from Quebec are providing an effective voice for Quebecers in Ottawa’. Just one in three (36%) ‘disagree’ (8% strongly/28% somewhat) that they are an effective voice.
Below is a table highlighting the differences of opinion between Quebec and the rest of the country.
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These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between August 30th to Sep 4th, 2012, on behalf of Postmedia News and Global Television. For the survey, a sample of 1,007 Canadians from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, respectively, of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in Canada been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
For more information on this news release, please contact:
Senior Vice President
Ipsos Reid Public Affairs
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