Quebec’s sovereignty movement faces an impasse rooted partly in the province’s progress

October 24th, 2017
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Montreal – Many Quebecers are ambivalent about their situation within Canada, because when the pros and cons are weighed, the scale never tips clearly to one side, says a new publication from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Observers often attribute the decline of Quebec’s sovereignty movement to issues about party leadership or tactical errors. But research shows there are deeper reasons for the ebbing support, observes Jean-Herman Guay, a professor of political science at the University of Sherbrooke.

Guay finds that several of the conditions that fuelled the sovereignty movement are no longer as compelling.

  • Significant economic, social and cultural progress since the 1960s means Quebecers’ standard of living has caught up to that of the rest of Canada ─ to some degree because of policies promoted by the sovereignists.
  • Anglophone-francophone linguistic tensions have calmed considerably.
  • Quebec has a large measure of autonomy in many important fields, because Canada is one of the most decentralized federations in the world.
  • Increased cynicism about interventionist government means that many Quebecers have serious misgivings about grand political projects such as Quebec sovereignty.

His analysis suggests that in next year’s Quebec election the sovereignist vote will be more fragmented and the federalist-sovereignist divide even less central.

Guay concludes: “By virtue of its existence and strength, the sovereignty movement yielded economic, social and cultural benefits, even if it did not realize its goals per se. But, in a cruel twist, its successes may also have precipitated its decline,” he says.

Sovereignty at an Impasse: The Highs and Lows of Quebec Nationalism, by Jean-Herman Guay, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).

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Media contact:  Shirley Cardenas  tel. 514-594-6877  scardenas@nullirpp.org