October 3 Ballot: What Could Happen to the Opposition? | Elections Quebec 2022
The Role and Place of the Opposition opposition to the National Assembly may well be redefined after the next election.
With five major parties campaigning for seats in the Blue Room, the role and place of the opposition in the National Assembly may well be redefined after the next election.
Quebec finds itself in a political situation unprecedented in its history. At least, according to the pollsters.
On the one hand, an outgoing government, which sits alone at the top of the projections, and on the other, four competing parties — the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), Quebec solidaire (QS), the Parti Québécois ( PQ) and the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) — which form a fragmented opposition and which, moreover, are practically neck and neck in voting intentions.
Let's get ready to an exercise in political fiction.
It's October 4, 2022. The most optimistic projections (for the outgoing government, at least) have come true: the caquistes won hands down, winning a hundred of the 125 seats in the party; National Assembly. The other four opposition parties share the remains. What then does our parliamentary system provide for in such a situation?
According to the rules of the National Assembly, a party must elect 12 deputies, or collect 20% by universal suffrage for be recognized as an official parliamentary group and be entitled to the advantages associated with this status (speaking time, research budget, political employees, etc.). A bar which seems difficult to cross for several of the opposition parties.
But what if none of them reach that threshold? Could the government of François Legault then reign as master and king, without recognized and organized opposition?
I have a hard time imagining it, says Patrick Taillon, professor and specialist in constitutional law at Laval University. There are, of course, written rules [in the National Assembly], but rule number 1 is unwritten: when all the party leaders agree on something, that agreement eventually comes together; impose.
“In the National Assembly, everything is always negotiated. And everyone knows that the benefits of an agreement are always greater than those of a disagreement. »
— Patrick Taillon, law professor at Laval University
He points out that there have always been political parties which have not met these criteria, but which have been granted, by consensus of the Assembly, the status of a parliamentary group. official. This was particularly the case with the Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire during the last legislature, but also with the Action Démocratique du Québec in 2008.
Patrick Taillon, professor of constitutional law at Laval University
But what advantage would a party with such a majority have in allowing its rivals to organize themselves? If the government decides to make life difficult for the opposition, the opposition can also make life difficult for the government, replies Patrick Taillon, by systematically opposing any motion that requires unanimity in the chamber, which would slow down greatly to parliamentary business.
The other groups could thus decide to carry out a true parliamentary guerrilla warfare, which, according to him, would create a climate of extreme tension which [could] not last very long. The government therefore has every advantage, according to Mr. Taillon, in playing give and take with the opposition, to prevent them from sabotaging its legislature.
What if the election results do not allow to decide which of the opposition parties would form the official opposition, in a scenario where two parties would obtain the same number of seats?
I do not have the answer, admits Patrick Taillon, who nevertheless judges the hypothesis hardly possible. According to him, in the case of a tie, there are not a ton of principles to decide the thing.
And the guide of La Quebec parliamentary procedure, which governs the functioning of the National Assembly, tends to prove him right. Nowhere in the rules does it state the clear course of action in the event of a mathematical tie, but a possibility is mentioned. In the event of a tie in the number of deputies elected by two political parties, the number of votes obtained can then be used to determine which of the two should be recognized as the second opposition group, it reads.
The Procedurecite a recent example. The day after the last election, Québec solidaire and the Parti Québécois both won 10 seats, tied for the title of second opposition group. After discussion, it was agreed that the PQ would inherit the title, since the party had obtained a greater percentage of the popular vote. A title that the party later had to cede to Québec solidaire following the departure of its MP Catherine Fournier.
But Patrick Taillon believes that another unwritten rule could come into play. account line.
In the National Assembly, seniority often takes precedence, he explains, adding that it often takes clear results to dislodge a group from its place. A convention which, in the event of a tie with another party, could benefit the Liberal Party and Dominique Anglade, she who held the role of leader of the official opposition at the dissolution of the Chamber in August.
The overwhelming majority scenario would not be unprecedented in the history of the province. The seat record belongs to the second government of Robert Bourassa, which succeeded in electing 102 deputies in 1973… out of a possible 110.
The Parti Québécois then inherited of the role of official opposition, with a team made up of only six deputies.
A remarkably effective opposition, very combative in the House, recalls former Liberal MP Yvon Vallières, who was 24 when he won his first term to represent voters in the riding of Richmond being carried by this tidal wave.
He remembers that the PQ opposition, however small, had managed to attract a lot of sympathy, and had succeeded in listen carefully to the media. Everything the opposition did was very popular.
Yvon Vallières chaired the debates at the National Assembly from 2009 to 2011.
There is no shortage of praise for his opponents at the time, who were in all the fights despite their small numbers. They shake the apple tree. It was pretty brewing.
“We were in a particular social climate. If you ask me, better to have opposition in the National Assembly than opposition in the streets. »
— Yvon Vallières, former Liberal MP.
But, by the former Richmond MP's own admission, such an overwhelming majority is a double-edged sword. With such a huge caucus and a small number of departments, there are many disappointments in the ranks. The problem, for the Prime Minister, [c'tait] to find rewarding work for everyone in the National Assembly, remembers Mr. Vallières. There wasn't much to keep MPs busy at the time.
Of course the victory was spectacular, but people were quickly disillusioned, according to Yvon Vallières. Above 100 deputies, the expectations of the population were very high, he said, adding that it quickly became difficult to lead, to lead as a government.
And the rest of the story proves him right. Despite his overwhelming majority, Robert Bourassa lost the election some three years later to René Lévesque, who in 1976 took the helm of the first PQ government in the history of the province. Mr. Bourassa was even defeated in his riding of Mercier, which marked the beginning of a seven-year political exile.
Yvon Vallières was also swept away by this PQ wave, before managing to regain his seat in 1981. And he is categorical: If our government had not been so strong in 1973, the fall would have been less severe in 1976, analyzes -t-il.
But Yvon Vallières believes that we must beware of playing the game of comparisons. The scenario today is very different, he said, recalling that at the time there were only two opposition parties sitting in the Blue Room.
However, it is possible that there are, for the first time, four leaders to give the reply to François Legault in the room. However, according to him, the more the opposition diversifies, the more appear the limits of our electoral system.
Four third parties, which all separate 15% of the vote, that means that 'there are more people who will have spoken for the opposition than for the government, he says. It raises the aspect of proportionality. At some point or another, all parties are going to have to look at this seriously, to take more account of the expression of the popular vote.
An opinion shared by law professor and former PQ Daniel Turp. In the scenarios discussed, he argues, the opposition is not only fragmented. It is diminished, [and this] despite the results of the vote. All this because of a distortion of our electoral system.
Daniel Turp, law professor and former Parti québécois deputy.< /p>
This distortion is the result, according to him, of the CAQ government which violated this solemn promise to review the voting system in its first term.
Would these new dynamics in the National Assembly be enough to reopen the debate on a proportional voting system? I hope so, replies Daniel Turp. It doesn't make good sense. We would have the most complete illustration of the fundamental inequity of our electoral system.