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As Quebec's National Assembly returns, questions linger over which parties get to participate

Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime is calling on the Speaker to allow his party access to some parliamentary privileges, despite not having a single seat. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime is calling on the Speaker to allow his party access to some parliamentary privileges, despite not having a single seat. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The day before the National Assembly is set to reconvene, questions still remain about which parties will get to have a say in Quebec politics — and whether some will get to sit at all.

Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) Leader Éric Duhaime is calling on the Speaker to give his party access to some parliamentary privileges, despite not winning a single seat in the recent provincial election.

"It's not normal that one citizen out of seven or out of eight in Quebec is not currently represented within the National Assembly," Duhaime said, saying the last election was "the worst democratic distortion in Quebec's history."

The PCQ won about 13 per cent of the popular vote, but didn't manage to win a single riding. That's in contrast to the Parti Québécois (PQ), who got 14.6 per cent of the vote, and got three seats.

The governing Coalition Avenir Québec party received 41 per cent of the vote, but holds the vast majority of seats in the legislature — 90 out of 125.

Unrest over election system

Duhaime is asking for the PCQ to be given office space within the National Assembly and the right to hold news conferences from the legislature.

He's also asking for the party to be included in closed-door briefings for certain legislation, like the provincial budget.

The PCQ previously had access after then-MNA for Iberville, Claire Samson, crossed the floor and joined the PCQ after being kicked out of the CAQ caucus last year.

"Now that we've convinced over 500,000 Quebecers [to vote for us], we have no rights? It makes no sense," Duhaime said.

Politicians aren't the only ones frustrated with how the election played out.

Several non-partisan organizations are expected to protest outside the National Assembly when it reconvenes Tuesday to demand electoral reform.

Premier François Legault promised during the 2018 election to reform the voting system and introduced legislation in its first mandate to that effect, but the bill never moved forward. Legault has since maintained that Quebecers don't care enough to change the status quo.

Sylvain Roy Russel/Radio-Canada
Sylvain Roy Russel/Radio-Canada

According to the Mobilisation Citoyenne pour une Réforme du Scrutin, one of the groups protesting, this election proves people want different points of view in the National Assembly.

"People wanted to vote for a lot of different parties … but most of the votes have just been lost," said Maël Ferland-Paquette, one of the group's founders.

Ferland-Paquette said that could affect whether or not Quebecers think it's worth voting next time around.

"People are going to lose hope in our system. And I think that if we don't have the space where we can talk about our different points of view, people are just going to get … angrier and angrier," he said.

Questions over vow also linger

Meanwhile, it's unclear if one party that did win seats will be allowed to participate in the parliamentary process.

Three PQ MNAs refused to swear an oath of allegiance to Canada's head of state — now King Charles III — which is required to participate in parliamentary proceedings.

Those who refused risk being expelled by the sergeant-at-arms, the Speaker ruled earlier this month.

Previously, Québec Solidaire (QS) had also refused, but had its 11 members swear the oath in the days leading up to the National Assembly returning, saying they will bite the bullet in order to sit in the legislature and change the law.

It's unclear what the PQ plans to do when the National Assembly returns Tuesday or if they will be allowed to participate.