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Already $250,000 to help the Yes vote for a new referendum

Photo: André Pichette Archives Agence France-Presse Des membres du camp du Oui quelques jours avant le référendum de 1995, lors d’un discours de Lucien Bouchard alors qu’il était chef

Even if it does not yet exist, the next Yes camp can already count on a war fund amounting to a quarter of a million dollars to promote the independence of Quebec.

A provincial tax credit receipt is offered to activists willing to pay the modest sum of $120 to enjoy small bites and a drink (included) on Friday in the company of the former Prime Minister of Quebec, Pauline Marois.

Held in the historic Rodier building in Montreal, the fundraising campaign promises above all to prepare the ground now for a referendum campaign. The objective is to constitute “a machine to win, to make Quebec a country”, does not hide Camille Goyette-Gingras, president of the United Organizations for Independence (YES Quebec).

It is a non-profit “political education” organization, established outside the electoral law and having no official link with political parties, but which intends to finance sovereignist efforts with a view to a new plebiscite. Financial documents, which Le Devoir were able to consult, show assets reaching $250,102 as of December 31, 2023, at the end of a record year of donations , but which 2024 could exceed.

“We still have a good “war fund””, welcomes Ms. Goyette-Gingras, who has already been president of the Forum youth of the Bloc Québécois and press secretary to the former head of the party, Martine Ouellet.

She attributes the increase in donations collected by this political financing machine to become “a national context among Quebecers which is developing”.

Currently first in voting intentions in Quebec, the leader of the Parti Québécois, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, promises to organize a referendum “certainly by the end of the decade”. He presents it as the “ultimate chance” to make Quebec a country, after two rejections of the option by voters, in 1980 and 1995.

The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, also said he wanted to play a role within the Yes camp in the next five years, if his independence family took power in Quebec.

< h2 class="h2-intertitre">The sinews of war

To convince the population to adhere this time to the idea according to which Quebec would stand better outside Canada, money is “the sinews of war,” says Guillaume Rousseau, treasurer of OUI Quebec. “It’s a tool to put forward our ideas and move them forward in society. »

Reached in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, where he is participating in an international program as part of his MBA at HEC Montréal, he insists on the importance of putting “the machine in motion” now, before have the certainty that a new referendum will really take place and before the unveiling of its financing rules, if applicable. In other words, without knowing whether the future independence campaign will have the right to dip into the kitty.

“The referendum is a campaign which only lasts a short period of time. But this kind of thing is prepared in advance. We need to meet people first, in their daily lives, and make them aware of the importance of this cause before the campaign even begins. »

In fact, everything suggests that it would be contrary to Quebec's Popular Consultation Act to use this money once a referendum campaign has been launched, warns Eric Montigny, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Laval University. .

“It’s very limited, those who can intervene, inject amounts, as a third party in a campaign. It’s very signposted in Quebec,” underlines the expert. As in the case of a private company, for example, “it would be an illegal expenditure [if they] spend this on campaign”, unless the law is changed.

Funding on the rise

In any case, the popularity of different activities in the last two years, including the organization of a show in Montreal for Quebec's national holiday, has caused the revenues declared by the OUI Québec organization to jump, which reached six figures in 2023. 2024 is shaping up to be another record year, with revenues up 86% in the first quarter, for a revenue forecast of $148,050.

Added to these sums is the receipt of two legacies offered for the cause last year, totaling $177,534. All this money now allows OUI Quebec to hire a full-time employee from September, with the aim of professionalizing their activities.

To give an order of magnitude, recalls Eric Montigny, a normal electoral campaign usually costs parties “several million” of dollars.

The most recent Léger-Québecor opinion survey on support for Quebec sovereignty confirmed, in June, that the option is stagnating among voters, at 35%. This is a drop of one percentage point from May. According to the survey, conducted online among 1,015 Quebecers from May 31 to June 3, 2024, 54% of voters would vote no if a referendum were organized, and 12% did not wish to comment.

The Yes vote was defeated in the first referendum on May 20, 1980, receiving 40.44% of the vote. During the rematch on October 30, 1995, 49.42% of voters chose the option of Quebec independence, compared to a narrow majority of 50.58% for No.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116