MONTREAL — The March 5 Quebec election announcement produced no surprises in a random sampling of voters’ opinions at Cavendish Mall in the heart of D’Arcy McGee riding in Cote St. Luc, where the joke is that a lettuce would win as long as it was Liberal.
Not only did those queried worry about the Parti Québécois (PQ) government returning with a majority on April 7, they also expressed concern that the secular values charter would threaten religious freedom.
It could lead to “no religious freedom, no freedom of speech,” said Yacov Amsellem, who is 21 and about to vote for the first time in a provincial election.
Amsellem agreed that charter or no charter, there was no option but to vote Liberal, “but you have to hope for a minority government [again].”
Amsellem, who said he loves to follow politics, gave equal weight to the issues of the charter and separation, both of which are hurting the Quebec economy.
“Companies don’t feel like they want to come here,” he said. Despite polls showing majority franco-Québécois support for the charter, “lots of Quebecers are against it. I speak to them every day.”
Sammy Hochberg, a 70-year-old retired general contractor, said, “we need togetherness to build the country…there’s no need to destroy it.
“We have more power if the English and the French are together, and with all the ethnic [communities).”
Hochberg said while he did have grown offspring no longer in Quebec, their departure was not connected to politics.
“It’s been good here, and I don’t want [Premier Pauline Marois] to spoil it.
“It’s disturbing. The economic situation is going down and there’s less work than there used to be and it’s because of the political situation, the threat of separation.”
Despite anxieties over the coming election, Hochberg had room for a joke.
“Did you hear why Pauline Marois had to go to the hospital? She ate an English muffin.”
Shloime Orshanky, 84, a retired diamond cutter, said he is not looking forward in general to another vote 18 months since the last one.
“I’m afraid [Marois] is going to win, but I hope it will be very close and only a minority [government].
“The charter is stupid,” Orshansky said, “but separation bothers me more than the charter. It’s a beautiful country, and the Quebecois are wonderful people. I am Québécois too.”
Orshanky’s wife, Gina, seated across from him, put it succinctly: “I agree with him.”
Sidney Nemes, who owns the popular J & R kosher butcher shop inside the mall, hoped that the Liberals and CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) “will be able to put Mrs. Marois onto the thinking table before it will affect our economy.”
Meanwhile, Michel Bohbot, owner of Miss U, a shoe boutique in the mall, hoped against the PQ forming a majority government and while generally against the secular values charter, agreed that the real target for its ban of public workers wearing religious symbols was Muslims, not Jews or Christians.
“I’m not sure I’m going to vote anyway,” Bohbot said, given the fact that a victory by the Liberals in D’Arcy McGee is a foregone conclusion.
The CJN spoke to voters a day before it was reported that six-time Liberal incumbent Lawrence Bergman would be bowing out of the election.