Québec has voted, and the separatist Parti Québécois will form a minority government. It is a remarkable result. The first thing that strikes the Rest of Canada is that even with deep disaffection for the arrogance and corruption associated (rightly or wrongly) with the federalist Liberal Party of Québec, the separatists were able to garner only 38% of the vote (including 6% for the fringe party, Québec Solidaire.) The PQ led the Liberals by only 0.7% of the popular vote. This has widely been interpreted as a solid blow against the separatist movement—that under very favourable conditions for separatism, they have less support than in the disastrous (for them) 1980 referendum.
It is now predicted that the PQ will attempt to put the Government of Canada on the defensive by making demands (for example, to amend the Constitution to allow for the institution of Québec citizenship) that GOC will reject, thus creating sympathy for the separatist cause. Quebeckers are likely to have their emotions played with in this way. In the meanwhile, all Canadians, including Quebeckers, will be impatient with any movement that jeopardizes their economic prospects—their retirement benefits, for example—by creating a Québec discount for Canadian investments.
The Québec electorate has, as always, voted very cannily, ousting the Liberals they so distrust, but giving the PQ so slight a mandate that its more absurd ambitions cannot possibly be realized. (I have in mind the narrow-minded proposal to promulgate a Charter of Quebec Secularism that would prevent the display of “religious symbols” such as the Sikh turban. See also here.) In the past, the touted cleverness of Québec voters seemed to consist in their giving separatists enough of a show of support that the province could credibly negotiate for additional benefits from the federal government. In this election, that kind of parochialism seems to have disappeared.
Vote the bums out, the electorate has said, but let it be clear that we don’t support the atavistic ambitions of the other guys.