Talk of sovereignty, promoting French culture is bad for Quebec’s economy

If Quebec ultimately chooses to separate from the rest Canada, it will cost the province $7.8 billion a year in equalization payments and potentially $131,789,570,016 — their share of the national debt based on population. That's if they separate.

But even the threat of sovereignty or separation is already costing them, big time.

During Monday night's one-on-one debate between the PQ's Pauline Marois and Liberal leader Jean Charest, Marois said she wants to call a referendum on Quebec sovereignty as soon as possible, when Quebecers want one.

[ Related Video: Quebec's feisty one-on-one debate ]

Earlier in the day, she talked about using a modest amount tax dollars to promote sovereignty.

Such discourse, says the Montreal Gazette's Henry Aubin, drives people and money away.

"A referendum is likely to cause people elsewhere to be more reluctant to come here or invest; many people who are here, including many with investments here, will be more likely to leave," he wrote in a column published Tuesday.

"History tell us to expect it. The graph says it all. It shows sharp declines in migration [from Canada and abroad] in the years immediately preceding the election of the PQ and the 1995 referendum."

The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson adds that Quebec's pro-French policies have affected the type of immigrants the province attracts and is akin to "slow-motion suicide."

Ibbitson cited the Charest government's bill banning face coverings whenever Quebec citizens interact with the provincial government and the PQ proposal, last week, which would ban all civil servants from wearing or exposing overt religious symbols.

[ Related: PQ would spend tax dollars to promote sovereignty: Marois ]

"Quebec's French-language requirement ensures that many of the immigrants who do arrive in that province come from poorer parts of the globe, where new arrivals are less likely to have the education and skills needed to contribute," he wrote adding that other provinces receive the highly skilled immigrants who refuse to learn French.

"Demographic decline is the greatest problem afflicting Quebec society. Not enough babies are being born to sustain the population. The average age in Quebec is older than in any province to its west. Without young, skilled immigrants to fill vacant jobs, pay taxes that sustain social programs and contribute to pension funds for older folk, those jobs, programs and pensions will eventually disappear."

Imagine what that graph above would like if Quebec actually separated — at least in the short term.

(Reuters photo)