Thursday, October 13, 2011

Complicated Canadian Constitutional Questions

As someone who was not here when Canada repatriated its constitution (whatever that means), I find the sweats and shaking that folks tend to have when this topic comes up to be entertaining.  Well, no need, apparently.  This piece says that Quebeckers are far bigger fans of the Canadian Constitution than conventionally believed and would not mind finishing the process.  Of course, the sweats and such make sense given that the efforts in the 80's and 90's precipitated two referenda, including the one in 1995 that nearly broke the 50% barrier (and what a silly number that is).

The new poll indicates a bunch of stuff:
— Fifty-nine per cent of respondents said Quebec's famous language law, Bill 101, should comply with the Charter of Rights. Only 41 per cent said Bill 101 should take precedence.

— A strong majority of those surveyed, 69 per cent, said the Constitution should be reopened eventually to include Quebec and 73 per cent said they hope to see it recognize Quebec as a nation and grant the province more autonomy.
— However, 77 per cent also said they want a moratorium of the constitutional debate.
— Seventy-one per cent called the sovereignty debate outdated.
— Seventy-six per cent expressed pride in being Canadian, while 83 per cent expressed pride in being a Quebecer. Sixty-three per cent expressed pride in being both.
 Reactions?  Well, 41 percent thinking Bill 101 should take precedence over the Charter of Rights means that the PQ is right to obsess.  If they can get 40% of the vote, first past the post plus a third party should mean getting into office, right?  So, a majority of folks are fine with the Charter of Rights being paramount, but the political incentives point elsewhere for at least one party.  Sometimes, I hate being a cynical political scientist.

I love that super-majorities favor Quebec being included in the Constitution but don't want this debate to take place anytime soon.  This is most rational.  Yes, the situation should be fixed, but the process is so messy that we ought to kick the can down the road.

Seventy-one percent think sovereignty debate is outdated!  Well, that kind of makes all PQ and more extreme Quebec nationalist claims kind of silly.  Hard to get 50% plus one if 2/3s of the folks don't want the debate at all.  Of course, thus far, I have not been that compelled by the math skills of many politicians here (and, yes, I am contradicting my assertion above about 40% on Bill 101).

And the real key is that most folks are fine being both Quebeckers and Canadians.  Just as most Texans are also fine with being Americans.  Well, except for Rick Perry sometimes.

1 comment:

Tony Kondaks said...


Here's the poop on polls in Quebec: it all has to do with language demographics regarding Canadian unity questions. 20% of Quebec's population is non-francophone and they are a block of "no" votes when it comes to referendums on separation and matters such as Bill 101. Indeed, anglophones voted, literally, 99% "no" in both referendums (demographic expert Pierre Drouilly's figures, not mine). This exceeds even the well-known 90%+ block vote by African-Americans in the U.S. for the Democratic Party.

So, take all the figures you reproduced from that poll and discount it 20% for the non-francophone element and it paints a quite different figure. For example, the 59% that said that Bill 101 should comply with the so-called Charter of Rights (probably the most flawed "rights" document on the planet, but that's another story) translates into 59 minus 20 = 39% of francophones said it should comply and 41% said that Bill 101 should take precedence.

A much more interesting poll was the one Don MacPherson talked about a few months ago in which it was found that 1/3rd of all Quebecers who voted NDP (44% of Quebec's popular vote) said they'd vote "yes" in a sovereignty referendum. That's 14% of all voters.

Now add that 14% to the 23% who vote for the Bloc (virtually 100% of whom would vote "yes" in a referendum) and you've got 37% "yes" voters, which is 75% of the way to 50% plus one, the country's Official Opposition's (ie, the NDP's) threshold for Quebec to unilaterally declare independence in direct violation of both international and domestic law.

Conclusion: contrary to this poll (conducted by a very pro-federalist think tank!), separation is alive and well in Quebec. All this poll will do is serve to put federalists to sleep as regards the separation threat. Recall that when Pierre Trudeau left office, separation support according to polls was almost in single digits. A few short years and one humiliation later (ie, Meech Lake) and support was back into the 50-60% range, culminating in a near win for the "yes" in 1995.