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In Quebec, voters support parties that favour compromise

B.A. Political Science, Member of®
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Quebecers have always used elections to support political parties that would bring discussions and compromise. Political parties do not influence the people of Quebec, but rather get influenced by the electorate.

Federalism is defined as two levels of government, which are sovereign in their respective sets of powers, serving the people of a nation. In that respect, federalism means that government powers are divided and shared between the central government and smaller sub-governmental units. There are only 19 nation-states which use this type of political system rather than adopting a unitary state.

Federations had been created by nations in order to allow two races to coexist in the same nation-state. Consequently, the Canadian Confederation was founded to allow the English and French Canadian peoples to share their destiny into a common social and economic contract using a federal state.

Quebec has been one of the main founders of the Canadian federation because this political system was meant to facilitate discussion and negotiation between Canadians. For that reason, an opinion poll from the QMI Agency on November 14th, 2012 has shown that support for Canadian federalism is still very alive in this province and that Quebecers are strong supporters of a united Canada.

Nevertheless, Quebec’s opinion polls are very volatile and Quebecers often change their governments in search of better alternatives. In fact, Quebecers strongly support conciliatory federalism in which discussions are essential in a nation. In the last provincial election, Quebecers have elected a minority Parti Quebecois sovereignist government, with only 54 seats, in response to the public’s disapproval of the previous Liberal Government.

The concept of conciliatory federalism implies that there is an ongoing process of compromise and negotiation between the national government and sub national units.

Furthermore, Quebec has defended provincial autonomy which meant complete sovereignty of provinces in their own jurisdictional powers. For that reason, in the past, parties such as the Union Nationale and the Action Démocratique du Québec strongly supported provincial autonomy.

More to the point, Quebecers support federalism because it implies the idea of a compromise between different regions of Canada as well as between social groups of different political ideas.
During the federal election of 2011, Quebecers rejected the Bloc Québécois separatist agenda and widely supported the New Democratic Party.

Quebecers however sometimes support separatist parties in order to enhance their influence over other provinces. As a result, Quebecers used the Parti Quebecois and the Bloc Quebecois as negotiating tools in order to make compromises with other provinces. They voted for the Lévesque Government in 1976 in order to push towards stricter legislations to protect the French language. They were also pleased that the Lévesque Government told the rest of Canada that Quebec was different and that it wanted more provincial autonomy.

In the same spirit, in the 1970’s and in the 1980’s they strongly supported both Trudeau’s vision of federalism and Mulroney’s renewed federalism.

Quebecers have thus always used elections to support parties that would favour discussions and compromise. Political parties do not influence the people of Quebec, but rather get influenced by the electorate.

The shift of the Quebec vote from the Bloc Quebecois to the NDP in the 2011 federal election reveals that Quebec electors are the sole carriers of this province’s values and aspirations; the people are not influenced by politicians and Quebec’s votes are very unpredictable depending on the moods of the electors. This is in contrast to the Japanese who have elected the same party for 44 years and will now again renew their trust with the old Japanese Liberal Democrats.
Quebec’s political culture is unique and evolves over time.

Consequently, Quebecers can remove at any time their trust from a party in order to strongly support a completely different party of entirely dissimilar political values. In 2012, Quebecers elected the Marois Government to the National Assembly as a sign of support to the student protests over the increase of tuition fees and they rejected Charest’s Liberal Government for its mismanagement of government contracts and the corruption which ensued.

Moreover, Quebec might vote again for the federalist Liberal Party of Canada just after voting for the separatist Parti Québécois in September 2012. Quebec City’s Le Soleil on October 25th 2012 revealed that support for Justin Trudeau, one of the candidates for the Liberal leadership, stands at 36% in Quebec which would make the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC)one of the main parties of this province.

This rise in popularity of the LPC can be seen as a rejection of separatism in Canada and a sign support for federalism.

However, Quebec’s support for a united Canada is not unconditional and Quebecers might sometimes support separatist parties in order to negotiate a better deal for this province.

November 20, 2012

* Quebec's Assemblée nationale

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Vallee, Yannick, B.
By Yannick B. Vallee

Yannick B. Vallee is a political scientist who recently graduated from Bishop’s University (Quebec, Canada) in the BA program of political science. He also has a college degree of Business Administration with a specialization in marketing. Nowadays,  he specializes in American, Canadian... (Read next)

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