Paris Gourtsoyannis: Québec turns the page on independence

Coalition Avenir Qu�bec founder Fran�ois Legault votes in yesterday's election. Picture: Getty
Coalition Avenir Qu�bec founder Fran�ois Legault votes in yesterday's election. Picture: Getty
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Scotland needs a break from independence, Ruth Davidson told Conservative activists in Birmingham on Sunday.

It sounded a bit like a new parent saying they need a night off from childcare (something Davidson will soon know all about). They know it isn’t going to happen for a long, long time.

We could be about to find out exactly how long. Yesterday voters in Québec went to the polls in provincial elections; by the time you read this, the result may already be clear.

If the polls are to be believed, it will mark a milestone in the history of the province’s nationalist movement. Throughout the campaign, a party that has never been in government in Québec City has been in the lead. They are the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) – the coalition for the future of Québec, for those at the back of the class – and they represent a significant cultural and departure.

The CAQ was founded by François Legault, a former parliamentarian from the traditional bastion of independence, the Parti Québecois (PQ). The CAQ draws the bulk of its support from the same francophone base as the PQ. It is a nationalist party – Legault has taken the toughest line on immigration, threatening migrants who fail “Québec values” tests and break strict language laws with deportation.

But it is a nationalist party with a difference – because if the CAQ wins, it will be the first to do so with an explicit promise to never hold an independence referendum.

As voters of all persuasions try out something new, support for the left-wing pro-independence socialist party, Québec Solidaire, has also surged. The PQ is at risk of coming fourth.

A post-independence moment beckons, but the real lesson is how long it has taken: 23 years from the province’s second independence referendum. Davidson won’t be expecting a night off, at home or at work, for quite a while.