Negotiations Over Party Status and Budget

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Negotiations Over Party Status and Budget

Prior to the new session of the National Assembly of Quebec, secret negotiations were held to assign privileges to parties in the Assembly and the Assembly’s budget.

The rules of the National Assembly specify that to be recognized as a parliamentary group, a political party must either have elected at least 12 members or received at least 20 per cent of the vote in the most recent general election. Only the  Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) CAQ and Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) qualified according to these rules. However as a result of the way the first-past-the-post system operates Québec solidaire (QS) and Parti Québécois (PQ) obtained more votes than the Liberals, while the Conservative Party of Quebec had nearly the same number of votes as the PLQ but got no seats whatsoever. This created a legitimacy crisis.

Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) House Leader Simon Jolin-Barrette said an agreement was reached on November 25 that grants Québec solidaire (QS) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) parliamentary group status, even though they did not meet the criteria. The agreement is supposed to be made public at the time of its submission to the National Assembly and be adopted through a vote at the beginning of the session.

It is said that the rule to determine what constitutes a parliamentary group of 20 per cent of the vote or 12 members of the National Assembly (MNAs) originates from a time when the National Assembly tended to be bipartite (an allusion to the QLP versus the PQ), when the division of the vote was different, and that therefore the rule should be changed so that it is less strict.

According to an article in Le Devoir, in the relations between the parties of the National Assembly, there’s a tendency towards “bipartisanship.” For instance, the CAQ would like to be dealing with QS, and to have each other as Quebec’s two main political parties. Within that scenario, the PQ was already considered to have been dying, which is what the CAQ wanted, as the Liberal Party was in crisis and had become the party of anglophones.

Some feel that the CAQ and the QS are working towards the disappearance of the PQ. Others are talking about the need to find some form of unity between the QS and the PQ to give a renewed sense of purpose to the independence movement, which is now clearly not happening because QS hung the PQ out to dry when they agreed to swear allegiance to the new King and get various privileges in the Assembly. Meanwhile, the divisions between these two parties are used to push people towards the nationalism of the CAQ by saying that it is the party that should remain in power to represent the Quebec nation.

Following the meeting held on November 25, the media reported the following statements:

Simon Jolin-Barette, CAQ Government House Leader:

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the three opposition parties, as we had promised. At the beginning of this new legislature, all parties now have the necessary tools to work for the benefit of all Quebeckers.”

Marc Tangay, Interim Leader of the PLQ:

“Very pleased to confirm that the Official Opposition has agreed to a negotiated agreement between the parties in the National Assembly. We were able to participate in a constructive discussion in the interest of Quebeckers.”

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Co-Spokesperson for QS:

“We are very happy to have reached an agreement with the other parties. The parliamentary session starts next Tuesday and the MNAs of Québec solidaire will have the necessary means to do their opposition work against the Legault government.”

An item on Info Radio-Canada quotes QS House Leader Alexandre Leduc saying that having secured “full and complete recognition” of his party it has now obtained ‘three cabinets’ [budgets and staff] to carry out the functions of leader of the Second Opposition,

Leduc said that the funding obtained by QS will allow him to “build a robust parliamentary wing with a minimum of three questions per day in the Blue Room.”

The QS is said to have 31 questions per cycle of 100, up from 19 in the last parliament, with a budget of $2.7 million per year, for the duration of a four-year mandate, as opposed to $1.7 million during the prior mandate.

The Parti Québécois leader called the agreement a bargain-basement “deal” that he was forced to sign, otherwise the other three parties were ready to sign without the PQ, which would have taken away what it had managed to negotiate until then.

The PQ obtains :

– seven per cent of the questions instead of five, or two questions per week;

– a budget of $570,000 instead of $495,000, which will allow for the hiring of one more employee;

– an “observer” seat at the Office of the National Assembly, without voting rights.

In a statement on Facebook, the PQ leader said that the CAQ’s goal was to ensure that the PQ would not bounce back, while the QLP and the QS collaborated on this. He appealed to people who voted for the PQ to raise $120,000 by the end of the year to make up for the PQ’s shortfall.