Quebeckers doubt sovereignty is near
Only 20 per cent expect it in 10 years, survey indicates
Tim Harper

OTTAWA - Only one in five Quebecers believes separation is likely within the next decade, a new poll says.

The Toronto Star/La Presse poll by Ekos Research also indicates that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien enjoys the same level of trust in Quebec as Bernard Landry, expected to shortly become the next premier, and Jean Charest, the opposition Liberal leader in the province.

The Liberals under Chrétien now have 52 per cent of committed Quebec support to 30 per cent for the separatist Bloc, the federalist party's largest lead over the separatist forces in Quebec in the past decade.

Nationally, 1,491 Canadians were polled between Jan. 5 and Wednesday evening and the results are considered accurate within plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

When only Quebecers were surveyed, the margin of error jumps to plus or minus 5.1 per cent based on a sample size of 379.

``There seems to be a consensus emerging in Quebec that regardless of the affection one holds for separatism, the probability of it happening is becoming increasingly remote,'' Graves said.

Bloc support and the sovereignty movement seem to have been hurt by the January resignation of Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard, he said.

When Quebecers were asked about the likelihood that Quebec will separate from Canada within five years, only 13 per cent thought it likely. Only 20 per cent thought it likely within 10 years.

When the same question was asked in April, 1996, on the heels of the razor-thin 1995 referendum victory by federalist forces, 45 per cent felt separation was likely within five years and 62 felt it likely within 10 years.

When Canadians outside Quebec were asked the same question last month, 10 per cent felt a separate Quebec likely within five years and 14 per cent within 10 years.

Even though Bouchard has announced his resignation from Quebec politics, he remains the most trusted politician in the province, with 45 per cent saying they trust the Parti Quebecois leader.

Charest ranks next at 38 per cent trust level, Landry is at 35 and Chrétien at 34, but given the margin of error of the poll the three are in a virtual dead heat.

Conservative Leader Joe Clark enjoys the trust of 26 per cent of Quebecers, NDP Leader Alexa McDonough 15, and Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day is at 14.

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