Quebec separatists rebound ahead of provincial vote

Thu Feb 16, 2012 12:18pm EST
 
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The separatist Parti Quebecois, virtually written off just months ago, has made a rebound in public support and again has a shot at winning the next provincial election, widely expected this year.

A Leger Marketing poll published in the Journal de Montreal on Thursday has the PQ, which wants the French-speaking province to split from Canada, now tied at 29 percent support with Quebec Premier Jean Charest's Liberal Party, which opposes separation.

"It's possible to have a PQ government with these numbers," pollster Jean-Marc Leger said. "With these kinds of results anything is possible."

And the bloom has already come off the rose of the briefly dominant Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), or the Coalition for the Future of Quebec, headed by a former separatist cabinet minister who says he does not support a new referendum on independence.

The poll has the center-right CAQ, which had captured the imagination of voters as a new alternative to the two mainline parties, at 28 percent support.

As recently as December, the CAQ had polled at 37 percent, compared with 22 percent for the Liberals and 24 percent for the PQ. The PQ had been down to 18 percent in October.

Though the CAQ says Quebec sovereignty is not on its agenda, Charest has drawn attention to the fact that three of its nine members in the Quebec legislature are former PQ separatists.

Charest's Liberals won a majority in the December 2008 election, their third straight mandate. Technically he does not have to hold a new election until December 2013, but he is widely expected to call one this year.   Continued...