As the National Assembly prepares to reconvene on February 14, members of Quebec’s newest and most popular political party – the Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ) – will likely be sitting as independents.
On November 4, 2011, the CAQ was registered as a party with Quebec’s chief electoral officer, but has yet to be recognized as an official party by the National Assembly, despite holding nine seats in the Liberal-controlled Assembly.
In a poll conducted last December by CROP – a Quebec polling firm – the CAQ finished first with 39 per cent, beating the incumbent Liberals by over 10 per cent. CAQ leader François Legault expects an election to be called this spring.
Legault has capitalized on dissatisfaction among the majority of Quebecers alientated by the divisive rhetoric opposing federalism to sovereignty.
A former PQ minister, Legault wants to instead focus on the economy and improving the quality of life of Quebecers.
The Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ), another opposition party in Quebec, merged with the CAQ on January 22, bringing six Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) with them. Three Parti Québécois (PQ) members have also defected to the CAQ.
The legal requirement for official recognition as a party is 12 MNAs and 20 per cent of the popular vote in a general election. Exceptions can be granted, as one was for the ADQ in 2009, by the Office of the National Assembly.
Robert Dutrisac, National Assembly correspondent for Le Devoir, said it is unlikely the CAQ will get a favourable decision from the Liberal-controlled Office.
“In 2009, there had been a recommendation from the Office of the National Assembly…recognize the ADQ. At the time, it was in the interest of Premier [Jean] Charest to recognize the party, but now things are different,” said Dutrisac in French.
In an interview in French with The Daily, CAQ President Dominique Anglade said the official party status would allow the current CAQ MNAs to have significantly longer speaking time, as well as a $400,000 research budget.
Anglade said the extra speaking time is what counts for the CAQ, because “they want to be able to talk about the real issues Quebec is facing today.”
“People want to hear what the new voices on the political landscape have to say,” said Anglade.
Both the Liberals and the PQ have challenged the CAQ’s legitimacy on the basis that they have not yet won an election.
The CAQ chose not to run a candidate in a Bonaventure riding by-election last December. PQ House Leader Stéphane Bédard also suggested Legault should run in the Argenteuil riding by-election. The seat was vacated December 16, and has returned a Liberal MNA in every election since 1966.
Anglade says Legault had already decided on running in his preferred riding, l’Assomption, when Argenteuil’s seat was vacated.
“It would have been too risky for him to run in Argenteuil, because it is a traditionally Liberal riding,” Dutrisac said.
The CAQ and tuition
According to SSMU VP External Joël Pedneault, the CAQ platform on post-secondary education is alarming. Based on the idea that students who are getting training for high-paying jobs should pay more for their education, the CAQ proposes a modulation of tuition fees according to their program’s profitability. Pedneault thinks this is “even worse than the current tuition increase” imposed by Charest.
“This kind of modulation has already shown to profit only the richer families,” said Pedneault.
Anglade suggested the CAQ will counter the problems of accessibility with a restructuring of the Quebec grants and loans program.
Anglade said she “cannot reveal the details” of the restructuring, since the party is still developing it.