Twenty Years Ago Canada Came Within 54,288 Votes of a Divorce

Twenty Years Ago Canada Came Within 54,288 Votes of a Divorce

In 1980, Quebec voters were asked to answer the following wordy question

The Government of Quebec has made public its proposal to negotiate a new agreement with the rest of Canada, based on the equality of nations; this agreement would enable Quebec to acquire the exclusive power to make its laws, levy its taxes and establish relations abroad – in other words, sovereignty – and at the same time to maintain with Canada an economic association including a common currency; any change in political status resulting from these negotiations will only be implemented with popular approval through another referendum; on these terms, do you give the Government of Quebec the mandate to negotiate the proposed agreement between Quebec and Canada?

The result was an overwhelming loss for Quebec separatists who only scored 40.44%.

On October 30, 1995, voters in Quebec decided a more succinct question:

Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?

Despite the fact that last pre-election opinion polls had the separatists leading by 6 percent, the  referendum failed by 1.16 percent.

Quebec referendum, 1995
Choice Votes  %
Referendum failed No 2,362,648 50.58
Yes 2,308,360 49.42
Valid votes 4,671,008 98.18
Invalid or blank votes 86,501 1.82
Total votes 4,757,509 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 5,087,009 93.52

Sixty percent of French speakers supported the referendum, while 95% of the non-French speakers voted against it.

Two events credited with the turnaround are a pro-unity rally held days before the election and President Clinton’s statement that

Canada has been a great model for the rest of the world, and has been a great partner of the United States, and I hope that can continue.


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