Montreal Gazette

PQ surges in polls, yet independen­ce enthusiasm stalls

`The two aren't strongly connected,' says political scientist professor at Laval


Almost a year and a half after it was widely seen as being near death, the Parti Québécois is topping provincial polls. And the party's leader, Paul St-pierre Plamondon, is seen as the best person to be premier.

But despite St-pierre Plamondon's promise of an early referendum on sovereignt­y, the party's rise isn't coming amid a surge in support for independen­ce. Observers attribute the PQ rebound largely to the growing unpopulari­ty of Premier Francois Legault and his Coalition Avenir Quebec government.

“There's no uptick in the desire for Quebec sovereignt­y,” Christian Bourque, executive vice-president at the polling firm Léger, said in a recent interview.

His company's latest poll, published in Quebecor newspapers last Wednesday based on a survey this month of 1,032 Quebecers, put support for the PQ at 32 per cent, compared with 25 per cent of respondent­s saying they would vote for the CAQ. Support for independen­ce was at 35 per cent, Bourque said, around where it has been for more than a decade.

Twenty-nine per cent of respondent­s said St-pierre Plamondon was the leader who would make the best premier, well ahead of second-place Legault, the CAQ leader and premier, at 18 per cent.

The CAQ, which came to power on a nationalis­t platform that seeks autonomy but not independen­ce for Quebec, had drawn supporters from the PQ who now appear to be returning to their old party, Bourque said. “Maybe it's not all that surprising, with the growing dissatisfa­ction with the Legault government, that they're going back to what they know and what was their party of choice in the past.”

The PQ'S rise is a big shift 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 the Quebec legislatur­e, prompting questions about its future. Since then, it added another seat in a Quebec City byelection.

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

Valerie-anne Maheo, a political science professor at Université Laval, said government flip-flops over 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 a teachers strike have soured many Quebecers on the government.

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

Maheo agreed with Bourque that there isn't necessaril­y a link between support for independen­ce and support for the PQ.

“The two aren't strongly connected,” she said. While the PQ'S primary mission is Quebec sovereignt­y, its political program has other elements that can attract people who may not support independen­ce. The next election is not expected before 2026.

St-pierre Plamondon, 46, said this week he thinks support for sovereignt­y is headed in the right direction, and he reiterated his commitment to hold a referendum in a first mandate.

He said he will not let the polls dictate his approach.

“We don't do politics in terms of those kinds of calculatio­ns. We do what we have to do and we tell people what we think is the best interest of Quebec and then it's up for them to decide,” he told reporters.

Joël Arseneau, the PQ member for Iles-de-la-madeleine who accompanie­d St-pierre Plamondon at the news conference, said the Legault government isn't getting what Quebecers want from Ottawa.

“Paul is demonstrat­ing day after day that Canada doesn't work for Quebec, in terms of immigratio­n, in terms of culture, in terms of the media,” he said.

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

“The issue with the Parti Québécois, and we've seen this over the past 30-odd years, if they want to gain more votes, they sort of put aside the issue of sovereignt­y, but then they disappoint their core membership, so damned if you do, damned if you don't,” he said.

Marie-anne Alepin, the president of the sovereignt­ist Société St-jean-baptiste de Montréal, 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 a duty to work for self-determinat­ion, it's the greatest social action there is, so to talk about independen­ce, to put it back on the menu and to speak openly about it is good news for the future and good news for our children and grandchild­ren,” she said.

 ?? DAVE SIDAWAY ?? Leader Paul St.-pierre Plamondon and his Parti Québécois are riding high in the polls, something political observers credit to disillusio­nment with the Coalition Avenir Quebec government.
DAVE SIDAWAY Leader Paul St.-pierre Plamondon and his Parti Québécois are riding high in the polls, something political observers credit to disillusio­nment with the Coalition Avenir Quebec government.

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