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The Greeks of Quebec: Against a Referendum

I watched the Quebec provincial election very closely even though I was in Europe during a major part of the course of the campaign. The race evolved into an incredible thriller, with the voters of Quebec eventually showing their preference of a strong Quebec within a unified Canada.

The Parti Quebecois, which, perhaps unwittingly, promoted the independence of Quebec as its dominant theme, lost miserably to the Liberal Party which played the card of good and prudent governance of the province. Thus, Philippe Couillard racked up a comfortable majority by winning 70 out of a possible 125 seats whereas his rival, Pauline Marois, led her party to one of its poorest showings ever, garnering a paltry 30 seats, going down to defeat in her own riding and immediately resigning the party leadership.

Closely monitoring the elections in Outremont, Laurier-Dorion and Chomedey, Laval, areas with major Greek populations, it was evident that the ethnic Greek voters in these regions were determined to back the Liberal Party as they felt threatened by the prospect of a referendum on Quebec's status.

In Laurier-Dorion, the Greek-origin Liberal candidate, Gerry Sklavounos, triumphantly regained his seat with a 6,000 vote plurality and 46.21 per cent of all votes cast. At the same time, in Outremont, Liberal Helene David collected 15.368 votes, or 56.25 per cent of the total , and made history as the first woman MNA in the riding.

The Greek voters in Outremont, whose numbers are significant in the area of Parc Avenue and around the Greek Community Centre on Cote-Ste-Catherine and the Universite de Montreal, came out en masse to condemn the possibility of yet another referendum on Quebec independence.

At the same time, in Chomedey, Laval, where the largest percentage of Greeks reside (unofficial statistics indicate upwards of 30,000), Liberal Guy Ouelette was re-elected with an overwhelming majority, winning with 30,468 votes or 72.92 per cent.

The Greek voters, deeply conscious citizens in their majority, are friendly to the idea of a strong Canada. Their attitude is understandable given they arrived in the '50s and '60s in this great land and learned to respect and operate within a federal framework.

Speaking with many Greek-Canadians on election day, I realized that they are a deeply politicized national entity who know exactly where they stand and claim their political future by actively participating in polls and elections, both at the provincial and federal levels.

It should be noted that the Greek Community of Montreal, like many of its ethnic counterparts, harbors no "Quebecphobia," but, rather, is clearly frightened by the idea of secession. Nor is it in conflict with Quebec's French roots as its Greek day schools, Demosthenes and Socrates, comprise 70 per cent of their curriculum in French The country of Greece, on the other hand, is an official member of the Francophonie and is present at all its meetings, including those held annually in Quebec.

Now, in the days after the election, following one of the nastiest campaigns ever, the province should be united. The Francophones, the Anglophones and the Allophones, all the citizens and decisive voters of the province, pronounced themselves clearly for a strong Quebec within a united Canada.

The message of the Greek voters was equally clear, urging premier-elect Philippe Couillard to work for all Quebecers by concentrating on boosting the economy, streamlining the public sector and by improving the province's crumbling infrastructure, its underfunded education system and its health care wait times.

The mandate of the new Liberal government of Quebec is clear. The time to act is now, as, after 18 months of stagnation under a minority Parti Quebecois administration, there is no more room for delays and postponements.

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