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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us