The Bloc Québécois was nearly obliterated in the last federal elections. Support for the Parti Québécois keeps going down. Support for Québec independence has slipped as low as 33%, below the 40% long held as a floor. "The sovereignty movement is gravely ill and in the most unexpected places" states The Globe and Mail in a report published Saturday.
Building a rainbow coalition bringing together left-wing and right-wing proponents who shared a common interest for sovereignty was a good idea in the 70s. But 35 years of efforts by the Parti Québécois, internal quarrels and two referendums haven't yielded the expected result. While English-language media are celebrating the end of the sovereignty movement, the Québécois are now acknowledging that sovereignty can't be achieved through a structured movement.
Twice, the Québécois have shied away from their historic challenge, favoring Canada. In the mind of the average Canadian, these two missed opportunities took place in 1980 and 1995. I'm referring to the opportunities that took place in 1990 and 2005, in the aftermath of the Meech Lake Accord failure and the AdScam. Support for sovereignty then neared 70% the first time and broke through the 50% barrier the second time. On both occasions, a federalist party was at the helm.
The failed referendums were the result of the Parti Québécois' doing. The real missed opportunities were the result of Ottawa's doing. Had there been a provincial government sympathetic to sovereignty at the time, Québec would now be a country. In short, sovereignty can't be achieved on its own. It can only be achieved as a response to Ottawa's ill-advised initiatives. You think this is pathetic? I agree. The Québécois have expressed their support for Canada twice, in 1980 and 1995. But this support is not unconditional and Ottawa's doing nothing about it.
Now, everything is set for a repeat of the missed opportunities of 1990 and 2005. The average Canadian voter believes that the sovereignty movement is dying, seeing no sense in addressing the constitutional status quo. And a federal government in which the Québécois don't recognize themselves is promoting unpopular initiatives, alienating them further. This feeling can be observed among both French and English-speaking Québécois.
With the recent installment of a probe into corruption and collusion in the construction industry, the only provincial party capable of defending the merits of the federation is potentially facing the fate of its federal counterpart following the Adscam. This could open the way for a new, but nationalist, government [Google translation]. Should Ottawa continue on its way, a third opportunity may arise. Would the party at the helm take advantage of it?