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Studies show Quebeckers truly different

Any bon vivant can attest to the fact that Quebec is a "distinct society" within Canada.

Quebeckers spend more time in bed than their English Canadian cousins, read half as many books and frown less on adultery. They smoke more, eat more sweets and worry less about their health and about whether homosexuals should be teaching children, according to a string of recent studies.

While the differences add spice to life in Canada, Quebec's distinctiveness has become intricately linked with the country's political turmoil.

The French-speaking province is threatening to separate unless it is recognized as a "distinct society" in Canada's constitution. That is a thorny concept for constitutional experts but it is accepted fact in bars and bistros.

"Quebec is more hedonistic than English Canada and it's more driven by the pleasure principle," said a marketing executive with the Canadian subsidiary of an American company.

Statistics show women in Quebec spend more money on fashion, while actresses bare more on French Canadian TV.

"If they see one breast, they go crazy in English Canada," said Pierre Gendron, manager of Quebec rock star Mitsou whose steamy Dis-Moi, Dis-Moi video was banned last year by MuchMusic television network in Toronto.

The video, shot in a Montreal bathhouse, was a hit on Quebec's more permissive MusiquePlus network.

Rene Pelletier, president of the Montreal polling agency Sondages Barometre, attributes Quebec's hedonism to the province's French and Catholic origins.

"Quebeckers don't have the Protestant work ethic and their Latin roots give them a certain joie de vivre _ an appreciation of gastronomy and the pleasures of life," he said.

Although 80 percent of Quebec's 7-million inhabitants are of Catholic origin, the church's influence in the province has waned in the past 20 years.

A poll published last month by Montreal's CROP agency shows Quebeckers are more likely than English Canadians to condone abortion and teen-age sex.

And the new sexual puritanism that has gripped many parts of North America is not evident in Quebec.

A survey conducted by an Ottawa polling agency found that 14 percent in Ontario condone adultery, down from 24 percent in 1975. The opposite trend emerges in Quebec, where 32 percent condone adultery, up from 26 percent in 1975.

Advertisers and marketing experts describe a curious blend of worldliness and self-absorption in Quebec society, which may reflect the province's chronic soul-searching over its place within English-speaking North America.

"Quebeckers consciously wish to be distinct and they reward with their business brands and products that recognize this distinctiveness," said Coca-Cola Canada's vice president of marketing, Dave Sanderson.

Coca-Cola plans to use Quebec singer Celine Dion in its ads for the Quebec market instead of British singer Elton John or German figure-skater Katarina Witt, who star in ads beamed to the rest of the world.