As the PQ rises in the polls, support for independence remains stable

Almost a quarter of likely PQ voters would vote no in a referendum, a recent poll suggests.

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MONTREAL — Nearly a year and a half after it was widely seen as on the brink of death, the Parti Quebecois is leading provincial polls. And the party’s leader, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, is seen as the best person to be prime minister.

But despite St-Pierre Plamondon’s promise to soon hold a referendum on sovereignty, the party’s rise does not come amid a surge in support for independence. Observers attribute the PQ’s surge largely to the growing unpopularity of Premier Francois Legault and his Coalition Avenir Quebec government.

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“There is no increase in Quebec’s desire for sovereignty,” Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of the polling firm Léger, said in a recent interview.

His company’s latest poll, published in Quebecor newspapers last Wednesday and based on a poll conducted this month of 1,032 Quebecers, put support for the PQ at 32 per cent, compared to 25 per cent of respondents who said who would vote for the CAQ. Support for independence was at 35 percent, Bourque said, similar to where he has been for more than a decade.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said St-Pierre Plamondon was the leader who would make the best prime minister, well ahead of second-place Legault, CAQ leader and prime minister, at 18 percent.

The CAQ, which came to power on a nationalist platform seeking autonomy but not independence for Quebec, had attracted PQ supporters who now appear to be returning to their former party, Bourque said. “Perhaps it is not so surprising that, with growing discontent with the Legault government, they are returning to what they know and their preferred party from the past.”

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The rise of the PQ is a big change for the party, which won 14.6 per cent of the vote in the October 2022 election and just three of the 125 seats in Quebec’s legislature, raising questions about its future. . It has since added another seat in Quebec City by election.

But while the increase is good news for the PQ, that support may be fragile, Bourque said. His firm’s most recent poll suggested almost a quarter of likely PQ voters would vote no in a referendum on independence.

Valerie-Anne Maheo, a political science professor at Laval University, said the government is planning a tunnel in Quebec City, a plan to pay up to $7 million to bring the Los Angeles Kings to the provincial capital for two exhibition games. and an event for teachers. The strike has irritated many Quebecers with the government.

This has people looking for who could form the next government, and with the Quebec Liberals looking for a leader and political identity, the PQ is better positioned as an alternative.

Maheo agreed with Bourque that there is not necessarily a link between support for independence and support for the PQ.

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“The two are not strongly connected,” he said. While the PQ’s primary mission is Quebec sovereignty, its political program has other elements that may appeal to people who may not support independence. The next elections are not expected before 2026.

St-Pierre Plamondon, 46, said this week that he believes support for sovereignty is going in the right direction and reiterated his commitment to holding a first-term referendum.

He said he won’t let polls dictate his approach.

“We don’t do politics in terms of those types of calculations. We do what we have to do and we tell people what we think is best for Quebec and then they decide,” he told reporters.

Joel Arseneau, a PQ member from Iles-de-la-Madeleine who accompanied St-Pierre Plamondon at the news conference, said Legault’s government is not getting what Quebecers want from Ottawa.

“Paul is proving day after day that Canada does not work for Quebec, in terms of immigration, in terms of culture, in terms of media,” he said.

But Bourque said stagnant support for sovereignty is a challenge for the party.

“The problem with the Parti Quebecois, and we’ve seen this over the last 30-odd years, if they want to get more votes, they kind of leave out the issue of sovereignty, but then they disappoint their core members, so damn . If you do, damn you if you don’t,” he said.

Marie-Anne Alepin, president of the sovereigntist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste of Montreal, said she believes young people are increasingly open to the idea of ​​an independent Quebec and believes that dream will be achieved in her lifetime.

“Every nation has the duty to work for self-determination, it is the greatest social action that exists, so talking about independence, putting it back on the menu and talking openly about it is good news for the future and good news for our children and grandchildren,” he said.

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