Quebec separatism not 'big deal' to Canadians: poll

29th June 2012, Comments 0 comments

Half of Canadians don't care if Quebec splits from the rest of Canada, a poll showed Friday ahead of elections in the French-speaking province that could return separatists to power.

The Ipsos Reid survey for Postmedia News and Global TV marked a dramatic turnaround in Canadians' views about the possibility of losing a big chunk of the country -- about a fifth of its total population and land mass.

Some 49 percent of Canadians living outside of Quebec told pollsters they "don't really care if Quebec separates from Canada."

And half (49 percent) said that "it's not really a big deal" to them if Quebec splits.

Quebec twice rejected independence from the rest of Canada in referendums in 1980 and 1995, the last time by a narrow margin.

"Over the years, it's just one of those things where you get threatened so many times," Ipsos Reid president Darrell Bricker told Postmedia. "I think people have sort of walked away from this debate and the country has moved in a new direction."

Bricker also noted that Quebec has lost the economic and political clout it once had within the Canadian Federation, following the rise of resource-rich provinces in the West.

The figures came from two Ipsos Reid polls conducted June 11-18 and June 20-25. The first survey of 1,101 Canadians had a 3.0 percent margin of error, while the second, of 1,009 Canadians, had a 3.1 percent margin of error.

The province is facing debt woes and social unrest with daily demonstrations by students and others for months.

Embattled Quebec Premier Jean Charest, an ardent federalist, has been in power since 2003, and received his third mandate in late 2008.

Facing a stiff challenge from the separatist Parti Quebecois, Charest's Liberals have started running political attack ads against his main rival ahead of possible snap elections in September.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met privately last week with former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who led efforts in the 1980s to firm Quebec's ties with the rest of Canada, and Charest to discuss how to forge a better relationship with Quebec.

If the survey results concern politicians, one bright spot is that support for bilingualism in English Canada has soared since 1995, and remains high.

© 2012 AFP

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