OTTAWA (Reuters) - The main separatist party in Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec has increased its lead in public opinion, according to a new survey released on Thursday.
The CROP poll for La Presse newspaper put support for the Parti Quebecois at 34 percent, up three points from a survey done by the same firm in October. The ruling Liberals, who have a minority government, stayed at 30 percent, while the right-wing ADQ dropped two points to 26 percent.
The poll shows the PQ is steadily recovering after a bad loss in a provincial election last March, when it came in third with just 28 percent of the vote.
After the defeat, the PQ ditched its leader and brought in former cabinet minister Pauline Marois, a widely-respected figure, to lead the party. Previous PQ leaders promised to hold referendums on breaking away from Canada, but so far Marois has been vague on what she would do if elected.
Parti Quebecois governments held failed referendums on independence in 1980 and 1995.
The CROP poll showed 36 percent of Quebecers felt Marois would make the best premier, compared with 27 percent for Liberal Premier Jean Charest and 23 percent for ADQ Leader Mario Dumont.
The poll held mixed news for the minority federal Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which needs to win more Quebec seats to stand a chance of gaining a majority in Parliament in the next election.
CROP said backing for the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois -- the federal wing of the separatist movement -- had remained steady at 31 percent. The Liberals, who lost the January 2006 federal election amid a kickbacks scandal in Quebec, trailed far behind at 18 percent.
A potential problem for Harper is the falling popularity of the ADQ, which the federal Conservatives view as an unofficial sister party in Quebec.
The ADQ rose from near obscurity to win 30 percent of the vote in Quebec’s election but since then Dumont’s star has waned steadily, in part because his parliamentary caucus is young and inexperienced.
“You can’t say who is going to win the (next Quebec) election but the ADQ will neither be in power or form the official opposition,” Claude Gauthier of CROP told La Presse.
The level of satisfaction with the Charest government rose four points to 47 percent, the highest level since late 2003 -- the year he became premier.
The CROP survey of 1,002 people was carried out from November 22 to December 2 and is considered accurate to within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway