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National Assembly in a deadlock

by Gregory Wilson September 11, 2012
National Assembly in a deadlock

On Sept. 4, Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois, was the first woman to be named premier of Quebec.

However, she will be at the head of a minority government, having won only four additional seats than the incumbent Liberals. A minority government cannot fully operate and respect their campaign promises without the help of a second party to back its ideas up. Luckily, neither the Coalition Avenir Québec nor the Liberals are looking to support any of Marois’ controversial campaign promises, if proposed in Quebec’s National Assembly.

Marcel Danis, a political science professor at Concordia University and former vice-president of the House of Commons, said he knows that nothing will come out of this provincial government.

‘‘I don’t think much will go on under this government because of the policies and the promises that she’s made,’’ said Danis.

The dynamic of a minority government dictates that the PQ can only pass legislations into law with a majority support. The party’s two most emblematic plans are a sovereignty referendum and the redistribution of wealth – and both must go through the National Assembly to be voted on by the entire government. According to Danis, attempts to follow through on these plans will in all likelihood be rejected.

The PQ’s promise of a referendum was actually in the form of a bill they wished to pass, which would give the people the power to call their own vote.

‘‘For example, under this new law, if 800,000 people, 15 per cent of Quebec’s population, want a referendum across the province, the referendum would have to take place,’’ said Danis.

The PQ’s plan for redistribution of wealth consisted of “abolishing the health tax of roughly $200 per person, and replacing that with an increase in taxes for people making over $130,000,” said Danis. According to Quebec law, all monetary legislation must go through the National Assembly, including raising taxes, and Danis doesn’t expect the opposition to throw their support behind the plan.

Marois does, however, have one alternative for passing her legislation. As premier, she can now pass executive decrees, which in other words, is mainly the power of appointment.

She will thus be able to go forth with her promise to reverse the tuition fee increase, which had a provision admitting executive decrees. Bill 78 does not; therefore, Marois will have to either pass a law through the National Assembly to abolish it, or simply let it expire itself on July 1, 2013.

“It’s surprising when you look at the results; nine more seats [for the PQ] would have made a huge difference,” said Danis. “We would have had a referendum, and we would have had some redistribution of wealth. None of that can take place now.”

As you can see, Marois has barely any space to move. Until the next election, the National Assembly will be in a deadlock.

Marois’ election should be seen as a symbol of Quebec’s need for change. Quebecers have decided to remove Charest from power, yet have only given the PQ a minority government, disabling the possibility for them to do as they please. It’s a symbol of exasperation and frustration from a majority that has felt unheard for too long. ….

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