Quebec (English version) or Québec (in French) is a province of Canada with more than 8 million people. Its capital is Quebec City and its largest city is Montreal. The official name has been "Quebec" since Confederation in 1867. From 1534 to 1763 it was part of New France. It has also been called "Province of Quebec" (1763-91), "Lower Canada" (1791-1841), and "Canada East" in the Province of Canada (1841-67).
The provincial government currently considers Québec to be a "distinct society" within Canada, a status that the federal government recognized in a statement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in November 2006. That status is reflected in many provincial policies, such as the stringent language laws that vigorously protect the use of French as the sole official language of the province. Québecois culture has also manifested itself in unique cultural, religious and legal institutions. The Quiet Revolution of the 1960s cast off Catholic traditionalism and modernized and secularized Quebec, and also set off a demand for equality within, or even independence from, Canada; in referenda, voters twice narrowly rejected seeking independence.
In 1998 Canada's Supreme Court ruled that Quebec could not unilaterally secede and form a new country, as had been attempted in 1995 However, a clear majority in a referendum would force negotiations with the central government.
Lucien Bouchard served as Quebec's premier from 1996 until his resignation in 2001. He had joined the Parti Québécois in 1971 and chaired the "oui" (pro-independentist) side in the failed 1980 referendum. He attempted to address high unemployment and cut the provincial deficit, particularly in the context of globalization and Quebec's developing national identity. In the areas of trade and investment, there was some success, especially as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Secession remained at the forefront of the political agenda. The April 2003 provincial elections, which were a three-way race between the Parti Libéral du Québec (PLQ), the incumbent Parti Québécois (PQ), and the Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ). Jean Charest, a former federal Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, led the PLQ to win the majority of seats in the National Assembly of Quebec, with 76 seats to 45 for PQ and 4 for ADQ. The issue of municipal reform and merger/consolidation proved unpopular in many areas, hurting the PQ. The PLQ's unprecedented majority symbolizes a new phase in Quebec politics and not the death of separatism. Charest and the PLQ have been aggressive in reforming the provision of government services by privatizing in some areas.
Language and identity
Unlike the rest of Canada, which is anglophone, the majority of Quebec's population speaks French - although due to immigration there are important communities speaking English, Italian, and Spanish. The issue of language has been a central political concern for over a century, and has heightened in intensity in recent decades as the provincial government has restricted the use of other languages in schools, business and signage.
Quebec has distanced itself from a Canadian identity, and businesses have followed suit. For example, in 2007 Bombardier's new national TV ad campaign extols the plane-and-train maker's Canadian identity, but omits any such reference in the French-language version. "Planes. Trains. Canadian Spirit" becomes "Planes. Trains. A Source of Pride" in the French TV spots ("Des avions. Des trains. Une fierté"). Advertisers have long realized that many of Quebec's francophone speakers are hostile to ads containing pro-Canada sentiments. Wal-Mart Canada's Quebec communications chief explains, "In many cases, if you have a prominent reference to Canada, half the population won't listen or will be irritated." Labatt's popular Blue brand of beer sports a Maple Leaf on its label, but in Quebec it is replaced with a red wheat sheaf. Molson Coors beer company did not run the famous "I Am Canadian" TV ads in Quebec; it sells its Molson Dry brand in Quebec while the Canadian brand is its flagship brew in the rest of Canada.
The ten largest cities by population in Quebec are:
- See Population and Dwelling Counts, for Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2001 and 1996 Censuses
- Quebec Nationalism article, CBC News backgrounder
- See [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0000899 article in Canadian Encyclopedia (2000)
- He resigned as national Conservative leader in April 1998 and became Québec Liberal (PLQ) leader in May 1998. See [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0011432 article in Canadian Encyclopedia (2000)
- James P. Allan and Richard Vengroff, "The Changing Party System in Quebec: the 2003 Elections and Beyond." Québec Studies 2004 (37): 3-22. Issn: 0737-3759
- Bertrand Marotte, "'I Am Canadian' - but not necessarily in Quebec marketing," in Globe and Mail December 7, 2007 at 
- See Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and census subdivisions (municipalities), 2006 and 2001 censuses.