09/17/2013 09:03 EDT | Updated 11/17/2013 05:12 EST

Political Traction: Quebec charter overshadowed by Syria

Quebec's proposed charter of values, which would ban public employees from wearing religious symbols, hasn't gained the attention of Canadians, because the country is consumed with the ongoing crisis in Syria, according to Jaime Watt, executive chairman of Navigator Limited.

"There is a wall around what happens in Quebec sometimes, with the rest of the country not reacting in the same way at all," Watt said.

Watt and his team determine how the national conversation online and in the media is shared among the major issues of the week, and compare that to the share of the conversation — or "traction" — the issues are receiving in Ottawa.

Quebec's proposed charter of values showed only 21 per cent traction across the country, Watt said, despite dominating the conversation in Ottawa, at 62 per cent of the conversation.

On the other hand, the fact that the United States has been teetering on the brink of war in the Middle East is driving the conversation toward Syria, Watt told Power & Politics host Evan Solomon.

The crisis in Syria is dominating 74 per cent of the conversation in Canada, while registering 29 per cent traction in Ottawa.

This week's numbers suggest the proposed charter of values isn't a major issue for the federal government outside of Quebec, according to Watt.

The low level of public interest in the charter gives Prime Minister Stephen Harper a chance to stand to the side, while the province tables its bill this fall, Watt said.

For weeks leading up to the Parti Québécois' announcement on the charter of values, media leaks spelled out some details of the long-awaited proposal. It soon became apparent that the legislation would prohibit people like doctors, teachers and public-daycare workers from wearing turbans, kippas, hijabs and visible crucifixes to work.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was quick to call out Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, saying the proposal was rooted in a defensive "fear of the other."

After Quebec proposed the charter, the federal government also took a swing at the Quebec government.

"If the Quebec legislature were to adopt anything that ultimately violates Canadians' fundamental constitutional protections from discrimination, our government will take whatever action is necessary," Harper said on Monday.

Watt believes dwindling interest in the charter means Harper won't threaten any more action against the legislation.

Meanwhile, it appears the Quebec premier has consolidated her support in Quebec, according to Watt.

"She's basically wedged all her other opponents on the other side." Watt said. "It really looks like a smart play, at least initially, for her."

International stories don't usually top the Watt's Political Traction radar, but the deadly crisis in Syria is an exception because of U.S. President Barack Obama's early case for military intervention, Watt explained.

On Monday, the UN released a report, saying it has clear and convincing evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria on Aug. 21, killing hundreds of civilians, including children.

Obama's response to the attack, and the friction between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, has sparked Canadians' interest, Watt said.

Last week, Putin warned that a U.S. military strike against Syria would "unleash a new wave of terrorism," in a New York Times op-ed. Russia has a veto in the United Nations' Security Council and has consistently blocked any action on Syria.

Even though the Syrian conflict has gained traction across Canada, Canadians are not talking specifically about the country's refugee crisis, Watt said.

More than two million Syrians have fled Syria, and more than four million are displaced within the country's borders, according UN Refugee Agency.

The Canadian government announced this summer that Canada will accept 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014, including 200 urgent cases set to arrive by December 2013.

The NDP and the Liberals say the Canadian government should be doing more to fast-track the process of bringing in Syrian refugees.

At first glance, it would appear the Senate scandal has fizzled over the summer months, receiving less than 10 per cent traction in Canada and Ottawa.

But Watt makes the case that the scandal will ramp up again once MPs are back in the House of Commons in October.

"There hasn't been any oxygen on that story, but of course with RCMP investigations still outstanding, with the House and question period returning...I think we're going to be talking about that particular issue much more," Watt said.

Jaime Watt joins CBC News Networks' Power & Politics host Evan Solomon each week to look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadians.