Easy to see why Pauline Marois attacks British monarchy in Canada .. big majority of all Quebecers want to end it

Aug 7th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

Can anyone really be surprised that Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois is attacking the continuing strange status of the British monarchy in the Canada of 2012?

Or, as the Globe and Mail has explained: “With the Quebec election campaign in full swing, the royals have become for the PQ a symbol of the federal Conservative government’s efforts to impose the Crown on Quebec as part of its identity, an initiative decried by all sovereignists.”

Or as the Toronto Star has virtually complained: “In an election campaign in which the sovereignist party leader is battling against four other parties and arguing that the policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party are making her case for independence, you wouldn’t think she would need to pick another fight … But Pauline Marois has decided … to thumb her nose at Queen Elizabeth II, even as the Commonwealth celebrates the 60th anniversary of her coronation this year.”

Yet if you really have trouble understanding just what Ms. Marois is doing here, consider the results of a Harris/Decima poll taken for Your Canada, Your Constitution, just this past May. It asked more than 2,000 suitably representative Canadians whether they agreed or disagreed “that Canada’s Constitution should be changed to make Canada a fully independent country by retiring the British monarchy as Head of Canada’s federal and provincial governments.”

Canada-wide, some 52% of all Canadians, coast to coast to coast, agreed – while 43% disagreed. In the French-speaking-majority province of Quebec (surprise, surprise) the results were more strikingly one-sided. Some 76% of all Quebec respondents agreed that the British monarchy in Canada should be retired, and only 17% disagreed.

You don’t need to be a political rocket scientist to appreciate what Pauline Marois is trying to do when she thumbs her nose at Queen Elizabeth II.  Ms. Marois’ allegedly sovereigntist Parti Québécois is currently leading the Quebec election campaign by a whisker – with about a third of the province-wide vote. To win in the end she needs to reach out beyond her narrow hard-core sovereigntist ranks. Coming out strongly for a position endorsed by more than three-quarters of all Quebecers – sovereigntist and federalist alike – makes some pretty obvious sense.

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With numbers like this (17% for and 76% against), no Quebec politician in his or her right mind is going to actually defend the current strange last vestiges of the British monarchy in Canada and Quebec. According to the Toronto Star: “Liberal leader Jean Charest said the province is well served by the British parliamentary system … We’re not going to get into a quarrel about the monarchy over this campaign. I find it interesting that she would think that this is an issue during an election campaign …. I think jobs are an issue, frankly. I think the economy is an issue.”

You can, of course, retire the British monarchy while retaining the British or “Westminster” system of parliamentary democracy. India and Ireland, eg, show somewhat different variations on that theme. And of course again, jobs and the economy are bound to be more practically important, perhaps especially now.

Yet only time will tell how well Premier Charest’s subtle tactics here will stand up against Pauline Marois’s more demagogic assault on an institution the great majority of Quebecers have almost certainly never been too fond of.

Meanwhile, those of us outside Quebec who share both Jean Charest’s admiration for parliamentary democracy and Pauline Marois’s growing taste for retiring the monarchy at last can only raise our eyebrows and marvel at the way in which so many English Canadian journalists write about these things –  as if the great majority of Canadians outside Quebec somehow remain deeply attached to the “offshore” Queen who lives in a Palace far away.

The recent Harris/Decima poll taken for Your Canada, Your Constitution shows that, at this moment (and probably even when the votes are finally counted on September 4), Pauline Marois’s position on the British monarchy in Canada is supported by a considerably larger share of Canadians outside Quebec, than her party is by Canadians and/or Quebecois inside Quebec. (See the detailed monarchy poll results HERE, and a report on the Leger Marketing poll just before the Quebec election was called HERE.)

And yet in the strange summer of 2012 Ms. Marois’ PQ still may win the Quebec election in the end! Who says this isn’t a remarkable country, even or especially with the Quebecois nation in a united Canada – and even if Australia regularly does so much better in the Olympics?

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