National Assembly: rebalancing and imbalance of the forces present

Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press

QUEBEC — The October 2022 election created an imbalance in the National Assembly such as had not been seen since 1973, when Robert Bourassa had 102 deputies elected out of a possible 110.

The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) won 90 seats last October 3, a resounding victory, a supermajority, leaving only crumbs to the opposition, which finds itself fragmented and immensely weakened.

However, the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), Quebec solidaire (QS) and the Parti Quebecois (PQ) managed to demonstrate against all odds this fall that they could act as a counterweight to the government.

And Prime Minister François Legault seemed to recognize that the discontent could also come from his own caucus; he urged his newly sworn deputies to avoid « chicane » and maintain a united front.

The omnipotent Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, and his colleague at Immigration, Christine Fréchette, quickly deviated from this instruction by publicly contradicting Mr. Legault on the need for 100% Francophone immigration.

Almost immediately, Minister Fréchette came out saying that the government was in fact aiming for 100% Francotropic immigration, while Mr. Fitzgibbon called on companies for “exceptions”.

Mr. Fitzgibbon, who went on a hunting trip with millionaires on a private island in the Eastern Townships, then allowed the opposition parties to demand – and obtain – a sixth investigation into his ethics.

But above all, the PQ, which, with its three deputies is no more than a shadow of what it was, has completely succeeded in imposing its agenda on the National Assembly by obtaining the abolition of the oath to the king.

Proof that the pressure was strong and that everything is a question of political will, the elected officials who surprisingly rallied unanimously to the PQ adopted the bill making this oath optional in 12 minutes.

Opposition parties also came out on top when it came time to appoint a French language commissioner, a position that requires a two-thirds vote of the Assembly.

The Legault government now holds more than two-thirds of the seats in the House, which in effect allows it to appoint almost anyone it wants.

Important officers, such as the Auditor General, the Public Protector, the Chief Electoral Officer and the Ethics Commissioner, are subject to this two-thirds vote.

A good player, he nevertheless chose to respect the spirit of the two-thirds rule and took a step back to discuss his choice for the position of French language commissioner with the PLQ and QS, who opposed.

The serious dissensions and the fall of its leader Dominique Anglade will have initially harmed the strike force of the PLQ, but the party managed to pull itself together and stabilize thereafter with the interim leader Marc Tanguay.

We also heard from the mouths of two CAQ ministers that they had requested meetings with opposition MPs to discuss upcoming bills.

Sonia Bélanger (Seniors) and Jean Boulet (Labour) have both declared that they want to work in collaboration with the opposition on delicate issues relating to medical aid in dying and child labour.

On other occasions, the Legault government appeared arrogant, notably when the Prime Minister shunned the parliamentary press and refused to take stock of the session with them, breaking with tradition.

Nevertheless, François Legault sits at the top of the most beloved prime ministers in the country, according to a recent poll by Angus Reid, which gives him 57% of support in Quebec.

With this popularity rate, who knows how he will behave in the years to come, and if the opposition parties will still manage to hound him so effectively?

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