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30 years ago, Democratic Action of Quebec was born

Photo: Jacques Boissinot archives The Canadian Press Mario Dumont was, with Jean Allaire, at the origin of the creation of the Democratic Action of Quebec in 1994. We see him here in 2007, the year when his party made a breakthrough in the provincial elections, becoming the official opposition to the Liberal government.

Thomas Laberge – The Canadian Press in Quebec

March 17, 2024

  • Quebec

30 years ago, a new political party was born: Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ). Although the now defunct political party never took power, it helped shape the political landscape of Quebec by opening a third path between the Parti Québécois (PQ) and the Liberal Party (PLQ) which would lead to the election of François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), according to its former leader Mario Dumont.

The ADQ was founded in March 1994 in the wake of the successive failures of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords by more nationalist liberal activists. Among these, we find Jean Allaire, author of a report advocating more autonomy for Quebec, and Mario Dumont, who was president of the PLQ Youth Commission. The two men left the political party in 1992 and created the ADQ two years later. Jean Allaire will be its first leader, but will quickly leave due to health problems. Mario Dumont, then only 23 years old, was chosen to replace him.

Although the first adequists were liberals, the new political formation attracted individuals from other backgrounds. “When the ADQ was founded, the Liberals resigned, it was perhaps a third of the people. That was our starting core, but there were a lot of other people who joined. People disappointed with the PQ,” indicates Mario Dumont in an interview with La Presse Canadienne.

“It would have been “loser””

Although the ADQ wishes to offer an option for voters situated between the independence of the PQ and the federalism of the PLQ, it will not be able to avoid positioning itself during the 1995 referendum. “You cannot live in a society with a stake also important and not positioning yourself,” explains Mario Dumont.

Since joining the “No” camp would have been synonymous with returning to the PLQ, the ADQ will campaign in favor of the independence of Quebec. “We had just resigned from the PLQ, because it had abandoned the nationalist aspirations of the Allaire report. So going back to the “No” camp with the liberals would have been a “loser,” says the man who is now a presenter at TVA.

“Our natural camp was the “Yes” camp,” adds the former leader of the ADQ. According to Mario Dumont, his party had an influence on the referendum question. “The notion of partnership with the rest of Canada was important. We changed Jacques Parizeau's referendum approach,” he maintains.

After the second referendum failure, Mario Dumont's party proposed a ten-year moratorium on constitutional questions. The ADQ also positions itself as a more right-wing party economically, advocating fiscal responsibility, reducing the size of the state and greater openness to the private sector.

The first chosen ones

The beginnings of the ADQ will be difficult. Mario Dumont — elected for the first time in 1994 in the riding of Rivière-du-Loup — will remain for a long time the only Adequist deputy in the National Assembly.

In 2002, the party won several by-elections, but the results of the following year's elections were mixed. The ADQ only obtains four seats.

“In 2003, a year before the election, we were far and away first in the polls. There was really a big climb,” remembers Mario Dumont. “The PQ has launched a spectacular campaign of destruction: be afraid, a right-wing party is the danger,” he adds.

The PQ campaign against the ADQ rather benefits Jean Charest's PLQ: the 2003 election will bring a majority Liberal government to power.

The rise and the stampede

From 2006, the question of reasonable accommodation began to generate a lot of ink in Quebec. The sensitive subject will give rise to the Bouchard-Taylor commission in 2007.

At the time, the ADQ was critical of these accommodations and took a more identity-based turn. A positioning that will pay off: the political party manages to form the official opposition in 2007 with 41 deputies facing a minority Liberal government.

The former ADQ leader maintains today that he was certain of becoming the official opposition and that his party even had a chance of forming a government. “I still think that’s the night we should have won. By not winning, we found ourselves in a minority government, somewhat doomed to our loss,” maintains Mario Dumont.

Many AQ MPs have no political experience when they enter the National Assembly and this shows. “We had new deputies. One who had said the wrong sentence. Another who made a mistake in the regulations of the National Assembly,” he says.

Despite everything, Mario Dumont believes that these stories were blown out of proportion and that journalists played a role in the party's collapse in 2008. “It must still be said, there was impressive media hostility. When the 2008 election comes, we are no longer even visible,” he maintains.

The more nationalist positioning of the ADQ will displease its libertarian fringe, which also criticizes the party for having become too interventionist. “There have been all sorts of trends: some more nationalist, some less nationalist. There was this [libertarian] current around Éric Duhaime and others,” he explains.

“It’s never easy to manage a party. When everything is going well, when the polls are good, it is as is. The minute you have difficulties and things go down in the polls, everyone has their solution, everyone knows what should be done for things to go back up,” adds Mr. Dumont.

Evoking the pretext of the economic crisis, Liberal leader Jean Charest calls elections in order to obtain a majority in 2008.

It is a debacle for the ADQ which finds itself with only seven deputies at the end of this election. Mario Dumont announces his departure. It was the beginning of the end for the political party which would ultimately be swallowed up by François Legault's CAQ in 2012. The former leader refused to comment on this merger at the time and still maintains this position today when questioned by La Presse Canadienne.

30 years ago, Democratic Action of Quebec was born

Photo: Jacques Boissinot archives The Canadian Press Francois Legault (CAQ) and ADQ leader Gérard Deltell, in December 2011, shortly before the merger between the two parties.

“I never saw the CAQ as a continuation of the ADQ”

But what remains of the ADQ after having disappeared into the bowels of the CAQ ? “I never saw the CAQ as the continuity of the ADQ. It’s a different party, but one that was surely helped by the land that we cleared. That certainly helped the CAQ. There are people who have gotten used to voting for something other than PQ or Liberal,” he explains.

According to him, the ADQ was more to the right on the political spectrum while the CAQ is more of a center party, which he considers “quite spendy”. And the $11 billion deficit in Minister Eric Girard's latest budget proves him right.

He recognizes, however, that certain ideas from his party have been taken up by the CAQ, such as the abolition of school boards. “But there are things we proposed that were never done,” he adds.

After all this political epic, does the former leader of the ADQ think one day of returning to the partisan arena ? “Not at all, it’s not at all in my interests. »

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