Politics in Quebec

3 Nov

Did you have a happy Hallowe’en?

Scratch that… did you have a scary Hallowe’en?

Adorableness trumped terribleness when it came to most of the little beasts that came knocking on my door this past Tuesday. And really, once you’ve been through a Hallowe’en or two in your life, the shivers and chills are few and far between.

For a real scare – the kind that creeps up on you and serves up feelings of helplessness, with a heaping side order of existential angst – nothing beat the Hallowe’en of eleven years ago.

Okay, that’s not exactly right. It was the e’en before Hallowe’en, one decade and one year past. All Hallow’s Eve’s… Eve. Oct. 30, 1995. The evening of the last Quebec referendum. Remember?

The Night The Country Almost Died.

Brings back a shiver or two, no?

After a tense – and yes, scary – referendum night, when a clear result didn’t emerge until almost every ballot was counted, the No side prevailed by a skeleton-thin margin of 50.6 per cent to 49.4 per cent. With an amazing 94 per cent of all five-million eligible voters casting ballots, only 54,288 votes separated the two sides.

Scary. Very scary.

And what about the underlying issue – Quebec’s place within Canada? That’s an issue that’s never really gone away. Canadians outside Quebec often get complacent about it when it slips from the headlines, but it has a way of sneaking up when you least expect it, knocking on the door and shouting “Boo!”

Lately, the Quebec question is once again prominent, mostly thanks to the current Liberal Party Leadership race. The Quebec branch of the federal party passed a motion that may come up for a vote at next month’s convention. The motion – which calls on the party to “officialize” the status of Quebec as a nation within Canada – has divided Liberals, with leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff supportive and Bob Rae and Stéphane Dion opposed.

Meanwhile, a new poll this week shows the sovereignist Parti Québécois slightly ahead of Premier Jean Charest’s provincial Liberal Party in voter intention for an election that many observers expect by next spring.

And what about that spooky, existential question? That same poll shows that if a referendum were held today, eleven years after the last one, it would be another nailbiter. 45 per cent of Quebecers would vote Oui.

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