Quebec — Support for sovereignty in Quebec has broken through the 50-per-cent barrier to its highest level since 1998 amid growing controversy over the sponsorship scandal. A new poll shows 54 per cent of decided voters would support sovereignty in a referendum that offered an economic and political partnership with the rest of Canada -- the same question asked in the Oct. 30, 1995, referendum.
Polls over the past year asking similar questions showed support of between 44 and 49 per cent for sovereignty.
The survey, conducted by Léger Marketing for The Globe and Mail and Le Devoir, comes as a new controversy erupted in Quebec after Michel Robert, the province's Chief Justice, said separatists should not be appointed to the bench.
That's the bad news. Here's the worse news:
This survey, conducted April 21 to 24, shows 76 per cent of voters felt betrayed by the actions of the former prime minister and the Liberal Party of Canada after the 1995 referendum on sovereignty.
That opinion was shared by a majority of federalists regardless of their political allegiance, according to the poll.
"The sponsorship program, which contributed to undermining support for sovereignty between 1997 and 2002, is now having the opposite effect," said pollster Jean-Marc Léger. "In fact it is helping rebuild the sovereignty movement."
The survey found 37 per cent of respondents said the scandal and the allegations at the Gomery Commission motivated their decision to support sovereignty. Even among those who described themselves as federalist, 13 per cent said the inquiry would motivate them to vote for sovereignty
Betrayal and humiliation have been common themes exploited by the separatist movement over the past 40 years, to good effect.
Federalist Quebecois have been betrayed by the Liberal Party and their confreres in the movement; all of them now will be seen as corrupt swindlers in it not for the good of Canada but for what they can milk from Ottawa's teat.
All Quebecois, indeed, now feel that les maudits anglais see them either as crooks out to steal their money or idiots who can be bought off with a few cheap baubles.
The federalist forces in Quebec now no longer have a strong, respected leader or organization. The federal Liberals have been utterly discredited amongst the Quebecois, and are now reduced to a largely anglophone and allophone West Island rump. The provincial Liberals are likely to meet the same fate under a leader who has never really been regarded as a real Quebecois. The Conservatives may as well not exist as this point.
The separatists, on the other hand, have never had a more effective and respected leader than Gilles Duceppe. He has not become a polarizing figure within Quebec, and he also enjoys great respect in the rest of Canada--an achievement that even Rene Levesque was never able to accomplish.
Secession will almost certainly come to pass if there is a referendum within the next few years.
The irony is that it will have come about because of two initiatives to prevent it: the Clarity Act, and the sponsorship program.