Saturday, May 14, 2005

Flirting with sovereignty

It is not only francophone voters in Quebec who, disgusted with the daily revelations coming out of the Gomery inquiry, are flirting with sovereignty. Anglophones and, particularly, allophones also seem to be warming up to the idea.

From today's Montreal Gazette:

Asked how they intend to vote, both allophones and anglophones expressed an unexpected willingness to consider the Bloc Quebecois. In fact, one in four English-speaking Quebecers even claimed they would have voted for the Bloc if a federal election had been held last week.

Ten years ago, the average Quebecer whose first language was neither English nor French was more federalist than Pierre Trudeau. In the 1995 referendum, for instance, a convincing 95 per cent of allophones rejected sovereignty outright.

Which makes the sudden surge in support for sovereignty among allophones to 31 per cent telling for pollster Jean-Marc Leger.

In previous polls, Leger said, support for sovereignty, the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois among allophones never climbed above 20 per cent - and then only as a reflection of the typical grumbling and dissatisfaction that crops up between elections.

Seeing that number jump by 10 percentage points demonstrates just how angry voters - even the fiercest defenders of federalism and the backbone of Liberal support - are over the sponsorship scandal and testimony coming out of the Gomery commission.

And yet

Despite the scalding revelations about the federal sponsorship deals, 51 per cent of English-speaking voters, 42 per cent of allophones and 19 per cent of francophones said they would cast their ballots for the federal Liberals.

With the Bloc Quebecois riding at a historic high of 52% support, there is little doubt that the Liberals have seriously damaged the federalist cause in Quebec. Whether the Conservatives or the NDP, tied province-wide at about 10% each, are able to capture those federalist voters who have deserted the Liberals for the Bloc Quebecois, as well as those who reluctantly cling to the discredited Liberals, remains to be seen. Canadian federalists can only hope that one of them succeeds.