* Separatists would lose power in election now, poll says
* Quebec government had to dilute plans for new mining tax
May 23 (Reuters) - Quebec’s separatist government is highly unpopular in the wake of several missteps since taking power last September and would be swept from office if an election were held now, a poll published on Thursday found.
The Parti Quebecois (PQ), which wants the resource-rich mainly French-speaking province to break away from Canada, vows to protect Quebec companies from takeovers and make foreign mining companies pay more in fees and royalties.
A CROP poll done for La Presse newspaper between May 15 and 20 found the PQ had the support of only 24 percent of voters, down from the 32 percent it won in last September’s election.
The opposition Liberals - who governed Quebec for almost 10 years before losing the election - had 38 percent support, up from 31 percent in September. The right-leaning Coalition Avenir Quebec was on 22 percent, down from 27 percent.
The PQ holds only 54 of the 125 seats in the Quebec legislature and must rely on opposition support to push through legislation, meaning it has had to dilute its agenda and backtrack on some promises.
Earlier this month it laid out a new tax and royalty plan for the mining industry that was more moderate than it initially proposed.
The party has also shied away from campaign vows to abolish an unpopular health tax, curb admission to colleges for English-speaking students and freeze tuition fees for university students.
The PQ’s lack of popularity strongly suggests the question of independence is off the agenda for now, especially since the party would need a majority in the legislature to act.
Previous PQ governments held referendums in 1980 and 1995 on whether to break away from Canada. Both failed. PQ hard-liners want another vote as soon as possible, but party leader Pauline Marois says she will wait until the moment is right.
The CROP Internet poll surveyed 1,000 adults.