By the time Pierre Trudeau left office in the mid-80s, support for separatism in Quebec was just under 20 per cent.
But it didn't take much to turn things around. A few short years and one perceived humiliation later (read: rejection of the Meech Lake Accord), and separatism was on the rise once again, culminating in the 1995 Quebec referendum. We all know what happened then: The country came within a hair's breadth of ending, with the "yes" side squeaking by with a 50.58 per cent win.
History, again, repeats itself. On the heels of the 57 seats the NDP won in Quebec, largely at the expense of the Bloc, it wasn't too long ago that the pages of Canada's newspapers were filled with gleeful predictions of the death of the independence movement.
In another place in another time, Alan Greenspan used the term "irrational exuberance" to describe an overzealousness not justified by the facts on the ground.
It is now almost a year later and how things have changed: A Leger Marketing poll from March 11, 2012 asked the following question:
"Si vous aviez à choisir, préféreriez-vous que le Québec reste dans le Canada ou devienne un pays souverain?" [If you had the choice, would you prefer that Quebec stayed in Canada or became independent?]
Forty-five per cent of Quebecers responded that they would prefer that Quebec become an
If that 45 per cent figure accurately reflects how Quebecers will vote in the next sovereignty referendum, it is instructive to consider this number in another light: 45 per cent is 90 per cent of the way to 50 per cent plus one vote.
Fifty per cent plus one vote is the threshold recognized by the overwhelming majority of Quebec's elected representatives in both the Quebec National Assembly and Canada's House of Commons as acceptable not just for Quebec to separate but to unilaterally declare independence.
One hundred per cent of Quebec voters' preference by political party hold to this policy in the provincial legislature: the Liberal Party of Quebec, the Parti Quebecois, and the other smaller ones. More significantly, so, too, do 66.3 per cent in Canada's House of Commons: 42.9 per cent of Quebecers voted for the NDP and 23.4 per cent for the Bloc Quebecois (BQ) in last year's general election.
It is one thing for the Bloc to ascribe to this policy; quite another for a party that may one day form Canada's government: Thomas Mulcair and the NDP. By virtue of their official policy -- the Sherbrooke Accord -- the NDP is a party committed to opening the door -- wide! -- for Quebec to leave the Confederation, with no chocolatey mess.
The most alarming part of the Accord is where the NDP pledges not to use the means at the disposal of the Canadian government to uphold the rule of law and the constitution to keep Quebec within Confederation. So forget about partitioning any part of Quebec territory to remain within Canada (such as the predominantly English-speaking western half of Montreal extending to the Ontario border), a corridor to join Ontario to the Maritimes, or imposing any federal authority on one inch of Quebec territory, most of which was given to Quebec by Canada since Confederation.
Sure, there will be negotiations on crucial matters such as debt and free trade, but it will be a discussion between two sovereign nations, not one between a part seeking to secede from the whole. You see, Quebec will have already unilaterally declared independence and left Canada.
A newly revived Parti Quebecois is now poised to become the next government in Quebec City. Its leader, Pauline Marois, is committed to Quebec becoming a nation. And if the Leger poll is any indication there will be another referendum.
One can imagine the confluence of events: an overlapping of a PQ government in Quebec City beginning later this spring, and a referendum towards the end of their five-year mandate timed specifically to coincide with the coming to power of a government that will be committed to making the job of forming their new nation as easy as pie: an NDP elected in about three years. Then, a referendum with a close-to 50 per cent "yes" majority.
I can hear Thomas Mulcair -- the last Prime Minister of Canada -- now: "We love you, Quebec, and we want you to stay...but you voted 50 per cent plus one 'yes,' so we won't stand in your way. Goodbye, Quebec. Goodbye Canada."
Tony Kondaks is the author of Why Canada must end.