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Money and the ethnic vote

In 1995 a referendum on Quebec's sovereignty was held in Quebec, a province of Canada. After a narrow 50.58%-to-49.42% decision against Quebec sovereignty, the then-Premier of Quebec, Jacques Parizeau, made a concession speech in which he made his infamous remark on "money and the ethnic vote". Although Parizeau later apologized for his statement, the remark has since been widely used by federalists to discredit the sovereigntist movement.

Most recently it resurfaced in the 2003 televised Quebec election debate, when Jean Charest quoted a poorly referenced newspaper article on the matter to baffle his rival, Bernard Landry.

Table of contents
1 The quote
2 Money
3 The ethnic vote
4 Nous

The quote


"It's true, it's true that we have been defeated, but basically by what? By money and some ethnic votes, essentially. So all it means is that, in the next round, instead of being 60 or 61 per cent to vote YES, we will be 63 or 64 per cent and it will suffice. That's all. But now my friends, in the months that will come, we are going to... Listen: Some people got so afraid that the temptation to take revenge is going to be something! And never again will it be more important to have a Parti Québécois government to protect us until the next time!"


"C'est vrai, c'est vrai qu'on a été battus, au fond, par quoi ? Par l'argent puis des votes ethniques, essentiellement. Alors ça veut dire que la prochaine fois, au lieu d'être 60 ou 61 % à voter OUI on sera 63 ou 64 % et ça suffira. C'est tout. Mais là, mes amis, dans les mois qui viennent, on va... Écoutez : Il y a des gens qui ont eu tellement peur que la tentation de se venger ça va être quelque chose! Et là, jamais il ne sera aussi important d'avoir à Québec ce gouvernement du Parti Québécois pour nous protéger jusqu'à la prochaine!"


Quebec has very strict political party financing and public consultation laws which cover the referendum process. To circumvent these strict regulations, the federalist coalition used federal and provincial agencies outside Quebec, which were not governed by Quebec's laws, to finance the NO campaign; particularly for the October 27 federalist rally held in Montreal.

The total cost for this rally alone was estimated at approximately $4 million, a portion of which was in the form of paid leaves and 90% discounts on plane and train tickets for people wishing to travel to Montreal for the rally. The amount thus spent was more than the amount spent by both the sovereignist (Yes) and the official federalist (No) sides during the campaign. Some political analysts have advanced that the federalist rally, held just three days before the vote, tipped the scales in favour of the federalist option.

The ethnic vote

In the analysis of voting patterns, an "ethnic vote" is a vote where members of a given ethnic group strongly support a candidate or an option in a distinct manner. For example, Pierre Elliot Trudeau wrote that French-Canadians have historically voted for the candidate with a French name instead of voting for the candidate with the best policy for Quebec. This was considered an insult by most, implying that French-Canadians didn't vote intelligently. Also similar, is the support of Afro-Americans for the Democrats during elections.

In Quebec, three linguistic groups exhibit traditional voting patterns: francophones, anglophones and allophones (residents whose native tongue is neither English nor French). Since the 1970s, the francophone vote has been split between the federalist and sovereigntist options (40% and 60% respectively in 1995). The anglophone vote is largely federalist (95%), as is the allophone vote (roughly 92%). In the 1980 referendum, combined allophone and anglophone support for sovereignty was around 8%. In 1995 it was roughly 3%.

During the 2003 election, however, surveys showed that the "children of Bill 101" were voting along the lines of the francophone majority, confirming that the determinent factor in Quebec elections and referenda is not the ethnic origin of the voter, but the language he/she uses, hence the suggestion that "ethnic vote" is not appropriate to describe the phenomenon. The vote is clearly split along linguistic lines, non-francophones voting almost invariably for the party or option opposed to separatism.


This passage also refers to the voting patterns, where the "61% in favour" refers to the francophone vote. While Parizeau was mostly chastised for excluding anglophones and allophones from his definition of nous (us), he was critical of the split in the francophone vote in this passage. In a way he was saying that everyone was responsible for the defeat.

After having lost the referendum and facing public outcry for his remarks, Jacques Parizeau resigned.