Nanos on the Numbers: Canadian separatists should take note of Brexit research
Marked by a resurgence of the separatist Bloc Quebecois in Quebec and emerging “wexit” murmurings of Western alienation in the recent federal election, new research for Carleton University on the U.K.’s Brexit from the European Union should be a cautionary tale for those unhappy with the federation.
After all, if one is serious about exiting Canada, how could that happen? Recent research suggests that 57 per cent of Canadians think that referendums are a good way to decide on contentious issues (28 per cent say it is a bad way and another 15 per cent were unsure). Support for referendums is highest in Quebec and lowest in both B.C. and among millennials.
Asked about their level of sympathy with the idea of Brexit, two of three Canadians (65 per cent) were outright unsympathetic or somewhat unsympathetic. Also, in the fallout from Brexit, Canadians are more likely to prioritize relations with the European Union over the traditionally stronger relationship with the United Kingdom.
The kicker in all of this for Canada is that although the idea of a referendum to settle things sounds good, the practicality of what is a valid winning percentage outcome to merit the settling of any contentious issue such as the changing or division of the country is murky territory.
The U.K. exit from the European Union, spurred by the Brexiteers in 2016, was triggered on a 52 to 48 per cent vote in favour of leaving. In effect, if a little more than one in 50 voters in the U.K. swung back to remain -- none of the indecision and uncertainty currently gripping the U.K. would be happening.
In our own example, in the 1995 referendum in Quebec the margin between remaining in Canada and Quebec leaving Canada was a little more than a razor-thin 50,000 votes out of about 4.7 million votes cast.
Are calls for Canada’s federation to be more agile and responsive to a diversity of regions and interests valid? Absolutely. They are valid for any healthy democracy. When we think about the potential rise of Western alienation and Quebec nationalism, if views on Brexit are any indicator, many Canadians might be unsympathetic to the voices that call for separation.
Democracy can be messy. Perhaps the lesson today for our elected officials should be: take the grumpiness with the federation to heart as a valid pressure to renew Canada.
Nik Nanos is the Chief Data Scientist at Nanos and CTV’s Pollster of Record