Separatists win Quebec against tide: The narrow margin of victory for the Parti Quebecois suggests that the province's enthusiasm for declaring full independence from Canada is on the wane, writes Hugh Winsor from Ottawa

THE SEPARATIST Parti Quebecois (PQ) won a comfortable parliamentary majority on Monday giving it control of the Quebec provincial government. But the drive of the party's leader, Jacques Parizeau, to persuade Quebeckers to support his plan to turn Quebec into an independent country was less successful.

Despite polls in recent weeks showing the Parti Quebecois with a clear lead over the strongly federalist provincial Liberals, the parties were tied with 46 per cent each of the vote when the final ballots were counted. The remaining votes went to the fledgeling Parti Action Democratic, made up of former Liberals who want to keep Quebec within Canada but with more powers of autonomy than it now has.

Mr Parizeau's party received far less than 50 per cent of the vote, which was the psychological level required to consider the provincial election as a big step towards independence.

The PQ is committed to holding a referendum on independence next year but the results suggest the momentum has turned against the sovereignty movement. Quebeckers indicated they wanted a change of government after nine years of Liberal rule, but they have reinforced their penchant for keeping their options open while playing off one level of government against the other.

Because of the distribution of the vote in the first-past-the-post constituency system, the PQ won 77 of the 125 seats while the Liberals retained 47 and the PAD won a single seat for their young leader, Mario Dumont.

The two major parties had the same number of votes overall, but the PQ won most of the rural, mainly French-speaking, ridings while the Liberals dominated the urban area around Montreal, where English-speaking and 'allophones' - the immigrant communities for whom neither French nor English is their first language - are concentrated.

Despite Mr Parizeau's assertions throughout the campaign that his objective was only to replace the provincial government, he indicated in his hard-nosed victory speech that he and his government would immediately try to persuade Quebeckers to switch their allegiance to independence.

The new premier is a 64-year- old economist with a doctorate from the London School of Economics who was finance minister in the first Parti Quebecois government elected in 1976. But when the former PQ leader Rene Levesque agreed to give federalism another try after losing a referendum in 1980, Mr Parizeau quit the party and the government in protest at the softening of its independentiste philosophy.

He rejoined the party, became its leader in 1988 and won party approval to return to an uncompromising separatist approach. On Monday night, he used an ice- hockey analogy to warn the rest of the country that the third period would start today.

The first period was the election to the federal parliament in Ottawa last year of a strong contingent of separatist MPs committed to defending Quebec's interests against the federal government and to promoting Quebec sovereignty.

The second period was the provincial election, and now the final period of the game begins in earnest. Mr Parizeau said he would use his majority in the Quebec National Assembly to pass what he calls a 'solemn declaration' of Quebec's desire to become independent of Canada, even though this would have little legal value and fall far short of a unilateral declaration of independence.

The next step will be a concerted campaign to demonstrate that Quebec is not getting its share of federal largesse and that the province's ability to develop its economic and cultural institutions is hampered by the Canadian federation.

Mr Parizeau has consistently claimed that Quebeckers are being short-changed, even though more dispassionate studies show that Quebec receives more in transfer payments, pensions and other social benefits than it pays to Ottawa in taxes.

The Parti Quebecois government will set up a parliamentary commission to design a proposed constitution for an independent Quebec and will try to lobby the US and Mexico for guarantees that an independent Quebec will be allowed to join the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Finally, the Parizeau government will a campaign against the federal government and refuse to participate in the reform of shared programmes. He might even try to withhold federal taxes. Mr Parizeau has a capacity for bluffing and feinting and will try to provoke an over-reaction from the rest of the country - and this might prove a catalyst for Quebeckers' resentment.

Myths of separatism, page 14

(Photograph omitted)

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits