Nearly three in four Canadians oppose or somewhat oppose Quebec’s push to amend the federal Constitution, according to a new Nanos Research survey.
The finding in research commissioned by The Globe and Mail refers to provincial plans in a new language policy unveiled by Quebec Premier François Legault last month.
Bill 96, aimed at protecting and promoting French, includes the constitutional plan to declare Quebec a nation and make French its only official language. The legislation invokes the notwithstanding clause to shield it in advance from court challenges.
The Nanos survey found that 73 per cent of Canadians opposed or somewhat opposed the plan, with residents of the Atlantic provinces (79 per cent) more likely to oppose this than those from B.C. (68 per cent), Ontario (71 per cent) and the Prairies (71 per cent.).
To many non-Quebeckers, the plan raises questions about the fate of English-language residents in the province, and whether it is the beginning of a strategy for Quebec to open the Constitution for other issues, Nik Nanos, chief data scientist and founder of Nanos Research, said in an interview.
“For a lot of people, they just hear the idea and throw up their hands,” he said, adding that most Canadians are more focused on the pandemic and the economic consequences linked to it.
Mr. Nanos said it is incumbent on politicians who support the plan to explain it.
“There’s a challenge for everyone outside of Legault. This isn’t a challenge for Legault because 58 per cent of Quebeckers support what he’s saying.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal party leaders have generally supported Quebec’s plans.
“This is popular in the province of Quebec and all of the major federal parties are looking at Quebec during the next federal election, and don’t want to agitate voters,” Mr. Nanos said.
Because the poll suggests that about four out of 10 Quebeckers oppose the plan, Mr. Nanos said there may be an opportunity for a federal party leader to seek their support. “If you could be the rallying point for this, it could pay off electorally,” he said.
Mr. Legault has said he is acting out of a concern that the French language in Quebec is vulnerable, and measures must be taken to protect it.
Mr. Nanos said the whole issue is not a challenge for the Quebec Premier. “But it is absolutely problematic for every politician other than Legault and especially for the premiers and for the Prime Minister because it speaks to what is our vision for the federation, what is our vision for minority language rights, either French minority language rights or, in this case, English minority language rights.
“There’s a lot of history behind this that fires up Canadians.”
For the research, Nanos conducted a hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,029 adult Canadians from May 30 to June 2. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online.
The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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