In the shadow of a looming provincial election, the second in two years, Quebecers identify political uncertainty and dislike of the Parti Québécois as the top reason why they have considered moving out of the province in the last year, an EKOS poll suggests.

When asked, “Why have you seriously considered leaving Quebec?" 28 per cent of all respondents named political uncertainty, distaste for the PQ and being sick of politics as the number one reason.

Among anglophones, 30 per cent of respondents cited the same reasons. 

The Ekos poll, released Tuesday, found that nearly one in five Quebecers surveyed had seriously considered leaving the province in the last year. Nearly half of non-francophones had contemplated moving.

Frank Graves, president of Ekos Research, said, while it’s unlikely a mass exodus on that scale is in the cards, the numbers are still shocking.

“I haven’t seen statistics like that in a long time, if ever,” he said.

“I’ve seen numbers where people, because of economic shocks such as the closure of the fisheries, moved in significant numbers or considered moving, but I don't think I've ever seen numbers where half of a population was seriously considering it.

"I don't think we're going to see a massive exodus down the Trans Canada but still, even if a significant fraction occurs, that's a very shocking number indeed."

Those who indicated they had considered moving were asked, unprompted, why they would leave.

Political uncertainty topped the list of reasons to go, followed by the economy and jobs, taxes and racial intolerance.

Those who indicated they hadn’t seriously considered a move were asked what were their primary reasons for choosing to stay.

Friends and family, quality of life and Quebec roots were among the most popular responses. 

Identity issues divisive 

To anyone who has been watching the political debates in Quebec since the PQ formed a minority government in the fall of 2012, it likely wouldn’t come as a surprise that political uncertainty ranks high on the list of reasons to leave, said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies.

“The last year has been a very interesting year in terms of debates about identity,” he said. 

“I think it’s those debates that make Anglophones feel a bit more stigma. That stigma, combined with concerns about the economy, make for a formula that leads to greater reflections on the part of a lot of anglophones about whether they want to continue to live here or not.”

The debate over the proposed revisions to Bill 101, which were ultimately abandoned by the PQ in favour of focusing its attention on another piece of identity legislation, the secular charter, has pushed the issue of minorities in Quebec to the forefront.

With an election call expected in the coming weeks, and the PQ sitting tops in the polls, political uncertainty is at the forefront of many people’s minds, Jedwab said.

“There’s no question that will contribute to greater anxieties on the part of the anglophone population in a situation where they are already feeling a great deal of anxiety resulting from the identity debates around language and the charter that we’ve encountered in the last year.”

Stay or go | reasons to stay and reasons to go infographic

(CBC)

About the survey

As part of an exclusive two-week series, CBC Montreal will look at what is pushing people to consider leaving Quebec, what is keeping them in the province, and what hopes they have for their future in Quebec.

A total of 2,020 Quebec residents were interviewed by phone between Feb. 10 and 18, 2014, as part of this CBC-commissioned EKOS study. The margin of error for a sample of 2,020 is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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Those surveyed included 782 anglophones (with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points 95 per cent of the time), 1,009 francophones (with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points 95 per cent of the time) and 223 allophones (with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.5 percentage points 95 per cent of the time).

Anglophones are respondents who identified their mother tongue as English; francophones are people who identified their mother tongue as French; and allophones identified their mother tongue as "other."

Percentages for total respondents have been weighted to reflect linguistic population make-up of Quebec.

Clarifications

  • In a previous version of this story, poll results related to reasons for leaving were cited as percentage of responses. The poll results refer to percentage of respondents.
    Feb 27, 2014 4:04 PM ET