August 21, 2013 / 4:08 PM / in 4 years

Quebec separatist government trails opposition Liberals: poll

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Quebec’s separatist Parti Quebecois government, which wants independence for the French-speaking Canadian province, remains unpopular with voters and would lose an election held now, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

Parti Quebecois supporters cheer as they watch the results from the Quebec provincial election at the party headquarters in Montreal, September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Since winning a narrow minority government in the September 2012 provincial election, the PQ has stumbled several times and is now under pressure over media reports it plans to ban religious symbols and headgear in public life.

The CROP survey for La Presse newspaper put support for the PQ at 29 percent, up four points from a survey done by the same firm in June. The opposition Liberals rose two points to 40 percent, near the level needed to win a majority of seats in the province’s legislature, the National Assembly.

The right-leaning Coalition Avenir Quebec was at 20 percent, down two points from June.

The PQ only holds 54 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly and must rely on opposition support to push through legislation.

The fragility of its hold on power could prevent it pushing through a proposal that reports say would seek to bar government workers from wearing religious items such as crucifixes, hijabs, niqabs, burquas, turbans and the Jewish kippa headgear.

The government - keen to carve out a distinct and secular Quebec identity that cuts back on public displays of faith - had promised before the 2012 election that it would introduce a so-called charter of Quebec values.

The government has not commented on a report on the religious-symbols proposal in the Journal de Montreal newspaper on Tuesday, which laid out what the newspaper said were leaked details of the plan.

The Liberals expressed doubts about the measures and said that even if they were approved by the National Assembly, they would most likely be challenged in court.

The Globe and Mail newspaper on Wednesday described the proposals as “absurd, hurtful and bullying” and said they smacked of something that hard-line Russian President Vladimir Putin would do.

Earlier this year the PQ backed a decision by the Quebec soccer federation to ban players from wearing turbans. The federation changed its mind after intense pressure, both from inside Canada and abroad.

The CROP poll also said 40 percent of Quebecers backed the idea of breaking away from Canada, while 60 percent were against. Previous PQ governments held referendums in 1980 and 1995 on whether to break away from Canada. Both failed.

The CROP Internet poll surveyed 1,000 adults.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and Peter Galloway

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