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Politics of Quebec

Table of contents
1 Institutions
2 Political parties
3 International organizations
4 Politics of Quebec today


Many of Quebec's institutions are among the oldests in North America. The first part of this article presents the main political institutions of Quebec society. The last part will attempt to present an overview of Quebec's current politics and issues.

National Assembly of Quebec

The National Assembly of Quebec is part of a legislature based on the Westminster System. However, it has a few special characteristics; one of the most important ones being that it functions primarily in French, although English is allowed and the Assembly's records are bilingual. The representatives of the Quebec people are elected with a first-past-the-post method. Since at least the 1960s, various reforms of the electoral method have been proposed, but none have been enacted.

The government is created by the majority party and it is responsible to the National Assembly. Since the abolition of the Legislative Council in 1968, the National Assembly has all the powers to enact laws in the provincial jurisdiction as specified in the Constitution of Canada.


The Legislative Assembly was created with the Constitutional Act of 1791. It was abolished from 1841 to 1867 under the Act of Union which merged Upper Canada and Lower Canada into a single colony named the Province of Canada. With the British North America Act 1867, which would later become the Constitution Act 1867, the Legislative Assembly was restored to former Lower Canada, today the province of Quebec. The Quebec legislature was bicameral, consisting of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly.

In 1968, Bill 90 is voted by the Union Nationale government of premier Daniel Johnson. In that year, the Legislative Council was abolished, and the Legislative Assembly was renamed the National Assembly. Before 1968, there had been various unsuccessful attempts at abolishing the Legislative Council, which was analogous to the Senate of Canada.

Executive Council

The Executive Council is the body responsible for decision-making in the government. It is composed of the premier (in French Premier Ministre), the government ministers, the ministers of state and delegate ministers. The Executive Council directs the government and the civil service, and oversees the enforcement of laws, regulations and policies. Together with the lieutenant governor, it constitutes the government of Quebec.

See List of Quebec premiers

Government of Quebec

The government of Quebec consists of all the ministries and governmental branches that do not have the status of independent institutions such as municipalities and regional county municipalities.

Quebec Ombudsman

The Quebec Ombudsman is a governmental institution responsible for handling complaints from individuals, companies, and associations who feel the government of Quebec or any of its branches has made an error or treated them unjustly. The Ombudsman has certain powers defined by the Public Protector Act. The Quebec Ombudsman has a social contract with Quebecers to ensure the transparency of the State.

Human Rights and Youth Commission

The Human Rights and Youth Commission is an organization created by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It has been given the powers to promote and protect the human rights within all governmental institutions.

Office québécois de la langue française

The Office québécois de la langue française is an organization created by the 1977 Charter of the French Language. It is responsible for applying and defining Quebec's language policy pertaining to linguistic officialization, terminology and francization of public administration and businesses.

See language policies for a comparison with other States in the world.

Conseil du statut de la femme

Established in 1973, the Conseil du status de la femme (Women Status Council) is a government consultation and study council devoted to promoting and defending the rights and interests of women in Québec. The Conseil is made of a chair and 10 members appointed by the Quebec government at every 4-5 years. The head office of the Conseil is in Quebec City and it has 11 regional offices throughout Quebec.

Commission d'accès à l'information du Québec

A first in North America, the Commission d'accès à l'information du Québec (Quebec Commission on Access to Information) is an institution created in 1982 to administer the Quebec legislative framework of access to information and protection of privacy.

The first law related to privacy protection is the Consumer Protection Act, enacted in 1971. It ensured that all persons had the right to access their credit record. A little later, the Professional Code enshrined principles such as professional secrecy and the confidential nature of personal information.

Today, the CAI administers the law framework of the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information as well as th Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector.

Chief electoral officer of Quebec

Independent from the government, this institution is responsible for the administration of the Quebec electoral system.

Judicial Bodies

The judicial courts of Quebec are the Court of Quebec, the Superior Court, the Court of Appeal and the Human Rights Tribunal.

Municipal and regional institutions

The vast territory of Quebec is divided into 17 administrative regions. They are: Bas-St-Laurent, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Capitale-Nationale, Mauricie, Estrie, Montréal, Outaouais, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Nord-du-Québec, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Chaudière-Appalaches, Laval, Lanaudière, Laurentides, Montérégie, Centre-du-Québec.

Inside the regions, there are municipalities and municipalités régionales de comtés (MRC).

School boards

On July 1st 1998, 69 linguistic school boards, 60 francophone and 9 anglophone, were created in replacement for the former 153 protestant and catholic boards. In order to vote this law, which ended a debate of over 30 years, it was necessary for the Parliament of Canada to amend article 93 of 1867 British North America Act.

Political parties

The current major political parties in Quebec are:

International organizations

Quebec is a participating government in the international organization the Francophonie, which can be seen as a sort of Commonwealth of Nations for French-speaking countries.

Through its civil society, Quebec is also present in many international organizations and forums such as Oxfam, Clowns sans frontières, World Social Forum, World March of Women etc.

Politics of Quebec today

Recent political history

When Quebec became one of the four founding provinces of the Confederation, guarantees for the maintenance of its language, culture, and religion were specifically written into the Constitution. English and French were made the official languages in Quebec and school systems which provided for public funding of religious schools were established. Unfortunately for French-speaking Canadians, the same was not true for the other provinces. Under the Constitution the provinces had control of education, and in Quebec the school system was entirely confessional. The Protestants and Roman Catholics ran separate school systems in Quebec until the 1990s when secularization of schools took place under the Parti Québécois government.

Under the Union Nationale government of Maurice Duplessis and all previous governments, the Roman Catholic Church was allowed to maintain religious control over social services such as schools and hospitals. In return, the clergy used its influence to exhort voters to stay with the conservative government, which also took firm stands against social reform and unionism.

In 1960, under a new Liberal Party government led by Premier Jean Lesage, the political power of the church was greatly reduced. Quebec entered an accelerated decade of changes known as the Quiet Revolution which saw near complete decolonization. In 1966 the Union Nationale returned to power despite losing the popular vote by nearly seven points to the Liberal Party.

During the 1960s, a group known as the Front de libération du Québec was formed in an effort to attain independence for Québec. Their activities culminated in events referred to as the October Crisis when the British Trade commissioner to Canada was kidnapped along with Pierre Laporte, a provincial minister and Vice-Premier, who was killed a few days later.

A non-violent Quebec independence movement slowly took form in the late 1960s. The Parti Québécois was created by the sovereignty-association movement of René Lévesque; it advocated a reconfederation recognizing Quebec as an equal and independent nation. The Parti Québécois was elected in 1976. The first PQ government was known as the "republic of teachers" for its high number of candidates teaching at the university level. The PQ passed laws to favor equal financing of political parties and the Charter of the French Language (the so-called Bill 101). The Charter is a fundamental law making French the sole official language of Quebec while guaranteeing the rights of the English-speaking community. The first enactment of Bill 101 became controversial for its regulations on commercial signs. It banned English-only and bilingual signs, as the government claimed that they violated the right of the French-speaking majority. This section of the law was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, see: Ford v. Quebec (A.G.). The law was amended to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. The current 1988 law specifies that signs can be multilingual so long as French is predominant. Most businesses now voluntarily choose to put up French signs following market forces.

In 1980, Premier Lévesque put sovereignty association before the Quebec voters in a referendum. Sixty percent of the Quebec electorate voted against it. The Canadian government repatriated the constitution in 1982 without the approval of the Quebec provincial government. From 1985 to 1994, the federalist Parti libéral du Québec governed under Robert Bourassa and Daniel Johnson, Jr Progress on the constitutional issue resulted in the Meech Lake Accord in 1987, but it collapsed in 1990. Another constitutional deal, the Charlottetown Accord, which sought to resolve a long list of unrelated issues at the same time as it resolved the rest of the nation's relationship with Quebec, was rejected by country-wide referendum in 1992.

The Parti Québécois was re-elected to office in 1994, led by Jacques Parizeau, and held another referendum on sovereignty. On October 30, 1995, the measure was rejected by an extremely slim margin, less than one percent. The federal Liberal Party under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien came under sharp criticism for mishandling the "No" side of the referendum campaign.

Parizeau resigned and was replaced by the head of the federal Bloc Québécois, Lucien Bouchard. Under Bouchard, the sovereignist option was pushed aside, as it didn't seem possible to gather "winning conditions".

Still today, the political status of Quebec inside Canada remains a central question. This desire for greater provincial autonomy has often been expressed during the annual constitutional meetings of provincial premiers with the Prime Minister of Canada. In Quebec, no single option regarding autonomy currently gathers a majority of support. Therefore, the question remains unresolved after almost 50 years of debate. However, after a ten year rule by the separatist Parti Québécois government, Jean Charest, leader of the federalist Parti Libéral du Québec, was elected premier of the province in the election of April 14, 2003.

Federalist nationalists

The federalist nationalists are nationalists who believe it best for the people of Quebec to reform the Canadian federation in order to accommodate the wish of Quebecers to continue to exist as a society distinct by its culture, its history, its language etc. They recognize the existence of the Quebec political (or civic) nation, however they do not think Quebecers truly wish to be independent from Canada. Before the arrival of the Parti Québécois, all major Quebec parties were federalist and nationalist. Since then, the party most associated with this view is the Liberal Party of Quebec. On two occasions, federalist nationalists of Quebec attempted to reform the Canadian federation together with allies in other provinces. The 1990 Meech Lake Accord and the 1992 Charlottetown Accord were both ultimately unsuccessful.


Sovereignists are nationalists who do not believe Canada to be reformable in a way that could answer what they see as the legimitate wish of Quebecers to govern themselves freely. They opt for the independence of Quebec, however at the same time they insist on affirming their desire to offer an economic and political partnership to the rest of Canada on the basis of the equality of both nations. The political party that the sovereignists created is the Parti Quebecois, which its members define as a party of social democrat tendency. The Parti Quebecois organised two referenda that would have led to negotiations for independence: one in 1980 and one in 1995. They were both unsucessful.

Also in Wikipedia:

Quebec - Canada

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