Skip to comments.Minority government looms in Quebec
Posted on 03/25/2007 8:42:24 PM PDT by GiveEmDubya
Last Updated: Sunday, March 25, 2007 | 9:54 PM ET
Quebec faces the real possibility of a minority government for the first time in more than a century, as the province's main political parties remain locked in a virtual tie with voters heading to the polls on Monday.
Quebec has not elected a minority government since 1878, when a dispute over railroad laws erupted between the province's Liberal lieutenant-governor, Hon. Luc Letellier de St-Just, and Charles-Eugène Boucher, the Conservative premier. Boucher was fired, prompting an election in which the Tories, under new leader Joseph-Adolphe Chapleau, squeaked by the Liberals with a one-seat advantage.
Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotnibinière, the Liberal leader, recruited two Independent MNAs to outnumber the Conservative caucus, and assumed the premiership with a minority coalition that lasted 18 months before five members fled the fold.
When the Liberals attempted to call a new election, Quebec's new Conservative lieutenant-governor turned them down, allowing Chapleau's Conservatives to form the new government.
No minority tradition in Quebec
This unique precedent for minority governments in Quebec doesn't offer many lessons for modern-day politicians, said l'Université de Montréal political scientist Pierre Martin. "The party blocks were fluid [then], individuals had room to manoeuvre that they don't have today," he told Canadian Press.
A minority government scenario has not figured in contemporary Quebec politics because of the popular rise of the Parti Québécois, Martin theorizes. When former Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis's Union national faded from the province's political scene in the late 1960s, after ruling for much of the 30s, 40s and 50s, the nascent separatist movement that became the PQ quickly replaced it as the Liberal Party's counterpoint.
"The transition from the Union nationale-Liberal system to the rise of the PQ was very fast," Martin said. "There was no place for a transition situation where a minority government could have been conceivable with the three parties."
Several provinces have flirted with minority governments, including Ontario, where the Liberals ruled from 1985 to 1987 with NDP support. Saskatchewan's NDP governed from 1999 to 2003 despite only holding 29 of the legislature's 58 seats, and Nova Scotia currently has a minority Conservative government.
But Quebec is moving into unfamiliar territory. "I think the most useful [precedent] is the situation before us in the Canadian Parliament that is to say a minority government that subsists on a case-by-case basis," Martin said.
Quebec parties divided on minority outcome
PQ Leader André Boisclair said his party's plan to hold a first-term referendum won't fall flat if Quebecers elect a minority government on March 26. The PQ is prepared to work with Mario Dumont's Action démocratique du Québec party on the constitutional front, to organize another provincial vote on sovereignty, Boisclair told CBC.
Dumont has repeatedly said he's an autonomist, not a sovereigntist and during the debate told Boisclair he will not help him with a referendum. But the PQ leader is convinced otherwise.
Dumont is "sending confusing messages. Some days he says he doesn't want a referendum. Some other days he says to sovereigntists 'come to vote for the ADQ,'" he said. "My duty is to leave the door open, and I feel that it's still possible to build a coalition to have a referendum," Boisclair said recently.
Liberal Leader Jean Charest has warned voters a minority government will weaken Quebec's bargaining power with the federal government. "Quebec has never elected, or at least not for 100 years, a minority government, for a reason," he said during the campaign.
Dumont, who is the only leader to predict a minority government outcome, is confident the scenario will lead to greater political accountability, he told CBC. Minority governments paradoxical
Voters do retain the impression that minority governments are more accountable, but they are also be paradoxical, said Vincent Marissal, a political columnist with La Presse, a Montreal daily.
"If you're not happy with [the government] you just fire them and have another election. But people don't like to have elections. It's expensive, and people have to make a choice. But because of cynicism in the population, people like the idea of keeping their government on a short leash," he told CBC.ca.
A minority government is a wake-up call and may force Quebec's leading parties to do some soul-searching, Marissal said. That's what happened to the federal Conservatives.
"When we elected Stephen Harper's minority government, some people said it was almost the end of the world. But the world is still turning, it's not that bad, he's managed to keep it together," Marissal said.
"To see today how green the Conservatives have become, it's the best example to show that a minority government can change a political party, in a deep way."
With files from Canadian Press
Hey, long time no ping! Thought this might be of interest to your Canada ping list.
Should be very interesting returns tomorrow night.
Ping for tomorrow's nailbiter
I am in Quebec so will be voting in this election tomorrow.
Since you're there, let me ask: got any predictions for the outcome?
Please send me a FReepmail to get on or off this Canada ping list.
Then my next question is, if the federalists win tonight with the Tories polling 40% nationally, is Harper going to call the election soon or will tonight's results not have much to do with it?
The ADQ is in front an hour in. Whod've thunk it?
Popular vote is currently almost an even 3 way split. This could be a great day for Canadian Conservatives.
The online video feed is repeating the same 30 seconds, so I have to listen to radio...meh.
ANYWAY, if things stay more or less the same, it's a HUGE blow for Quebec separatism.
ADQ elected in 18, so they're guaranteed to at least go way up from 2003 numbers.
This will change the whole political dynamics of Canada. For the last forty years the liberals have use the separtists in Quebec as a wedge to divide and conquer Canada. After tonight the federal Liberals will lose their greatest weapon.
I agree. I'd also expect a federal election to happen sometime in the near future.
PQ in 3rd in seats and votes. Very disappointing result so far for them.
And BTW Charest is still trailing in Sherbrooke. This could be a watershed moment in Quebec politics.
The PLQ pulls ahead, but the ADQ is still in good position so far to be the official opposition.
Charest in still losing his riding.
The gap just grew to about 300 now.
No matter what happens, the ADQ has done an amazing job tonight.