Canada’s integrity in danger? Parti Québécois wins Quebec election 2012

But PQ did not get enough votes to win a majority government.

Questions:

1. Would you say that the Parti Quebecois will make some efforts to arrange a referendum on separation, or not and why?

2. Will Canada’s intergrity survive in, let’s say, medium term?

Answers:

Jonathan Malloy, Associate Professor, Chair of the Department of Political Science, Carleton University in Ottawa

1. The Parti Quebecois and its leader Pauline Marois have sent mixed signals on holding a referendum. Much of the party membership wants a referendum, but Ms. Marois has generally been more hesitant. However, under pressure from her members she became more sovereigntist in the campaign, but that is likely to diminish once she gains power.

Because the PQ won only a minority of legislative seats, they will be less able pursue a referendum anyway, as that would likely involve passing a legislative bill. The new CAQ party will hold the balance of power and it and its leader have called for a 10 year wait on any future referendums, so they are unlikely to support a PQ push for a referendum. As well, the relatively strong showing of the Liberals (who were expected to do worse) further indicates the limited support for immediate sovereignty.

2. Canada’s medium term integrity is likely to survive. Because they are unlikely to pursue sovereignty anytime soon, the PQ government will likely be even more confrontational with the federal government, in part to satisfy its militant wing. The federal government will fight back on some fronts but will also seek to accommodate some Quebec demands, since it tends to favour provincial decentralization and asymmetrical federal arrangements anyway. And conflict between the federal and Quebec governments is to some degree normal anyways regardless of party.

PQ governments have a history of pragmatism, following their failed referendums. There has never before been a PQ minority, and that will likely also contribute to pragmatism.

So this is not a great development for Canadian national unity, but it is unlikely to lead to immediate dramatic changes and the prospects for Canada’s integrity remain reasonably strong.

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