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ANALYSIS: Quebec Independence to Remain Hot-Button Issue

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The prospect of an independence referendum for Quebec, which recently hurt Parti Quebecois (PQ) in the polls, will not disappear anytime soon as about a third of Quebecers strongly support independence for the Canadian region, The Globe’s chief correspondent told RIA Novosti Monday.

MOSCOW, April 9 (RIA Novosti) – The prospect of an independence referendum for Quebec, which recently hurt Parti Quebecois (PQ) in the polls, will not disappear anytime soon as about a third of Quebecers strongly support independence for the Canadian region, The Globe’s chief correspondent told RIA Novosti Monday.

“The sovereignty question is rain or shine,” Sophie Cousineau said. ”However, the referendum will not happen within the next four years as it’s not part of the Liberals’ platform. They want to have good relations with Canada, but still establish a distinctive character for Quebec’s society, namely the protection of the French language.”

The independence question monopolized the first two weeks of the recent campaign, but Quebecers’ current priority is the economy rather than starting political debates, she added.

PQ’s defeat in the election was also due to the party’s hardline stance against multiculturalism, Paul Tadich, an independent journalist in Toronto, told RIA Novosti. He added the PQ’s Charter of Values was seen as a double standard and backfired on them.

“Exemptions were made for many Catholic symbols which were part of Quebec’s history, whereas other religious symbols from Judaism and Islam were said to be offensive,” Tadich asserted. “Quebec’s large Muslim population felt threatened.”

Pierre Karl Péladeau, Parti Quebecois’s star candidate and the province’s most prominent business leader, had a negative effect on the party’s campaign, Henry Srebrnik, a political science professor at UPEI told RIA Novosti.

“PQ has always presented itself as a very left-leaning centrist party with most votes coming from the working class,” Srebrnik explained. “And suddenly you get Péladeau, who is considered a union buster by the unions.”

Most experts agreed that both the charter and the fear of a possible referendum caused the PQ to lose the election, and stressed people are now more concerned about regional economic growth, as Quebec has traditionally underperformed compared to the rest of the country.

In Monday’s provincial election, the Liberals took 70 seats in the 125 seat National Assembly, followed by the Parti Québécois with 30.

The PQ party platform states the party is committed to achieving sovereignty for Quebec after consulting the population in a referendum.

Two previous independence referendums were both defeated, in 1980 and 1995, held under PQ-majority governments.

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