Letter from PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon
My dear friends,
As you know, for the past several days, the Parti Québécois has been negotiating with the other three parties represented in the National Assembly to obtain an officially recognized party status, which includes financial resources, speaking time and an administrative presence in some instances of the Assembly. You probably saw in the media that the various offers made to our formation did not allow us to reach the vital minimum that gives a political party the means to function normally, that is to say, a number of employees that would allow us to do our work properly and speaking time that would give us at least the right to exist.
In the last election, Quebec voters overwhelmingly supported five political parties, four of which were almost equally divided, each receiving between 13 per cent and 15 per cent of the votes cast. When the House opens, a party with 41 per cent of the vote will have 72 per cent of the seats. The current voting system has created an unprecedented distortion of the composition of the National Assembly. Each of these constituencies deserves to be properly and democratically represented. This exceptional situation calls for exceptional measures to restore a certain democratic balance, to mitigate the distortions and to allow the National Assembly to represent the main political currents in Québec as faithfully as possible.
Unfortunately, this was not the spirit in which the present negotiations took place. Very quickly, we understood, by the calculation methods proposed and by the lack of openness shown at the negotiating table by the other political parties, that no one really had any intention of correcting the democratic distortions caused by the last election. Here are the kinds of offers we were facing:
- Accepting that a party (the PLQ), which got fewer votes than the PQ, would get 10x our budget and about 70 per cent of the questions, compared to only five per cent for us.
- Accepting that a party with a similar number of votes to ours, Québec solidaire, gets 4x our budget and about 25 per cent of the questions. These are the "generous offers" of the CAQ and the PLQ.
Many columnists and commentators have pointed out that the objective of these negotiations was not to find a fair deal for all political parties, but rather -- and the other parties will never admit it of course -- to find the best possible way to marginalize the presence of the Parti Québécois in the next mandate. Unfortunately, this is also what we felt as the negotiations progressed.
Faced with a CAQ that wanted to give as little as possible, the PLQ and QS unfortunately agreed to offers and a final result that further accentuates democratic distortions rather than helping to reduce them. We did not sense any appetite on their part for a real democratic rebalancing, nor did either of them act to ensure that the PQ would obtain real recognition. In this regard, it should be noted that in the end, these two parties will have obtained all their demands, both administrative and financial. For the PQ, it is the opposite: a generalized refusal of our initial demands and a financial proposal that makes our work almost impossible.
In these negotiations, the Parti Québécois had absolutely no leverage. In fact, it had only one: you. When we realized that there would be no movement on the part of the PLQ, QS and CAQ, after several days of negotiations, the only option left to us was to make public the ridiculous offers we were being made. Many of you supported us and reacted with amazement and disappointment.
The day before yesterday, we learned that a written offer excluding us had begun to circulate among the three parties and that they were ready to sign it without our agreement, which they have the right to do, since the rules of the National Assembly call for "a strong consensus" and not unanimity. So they had the power to take away what had been negotiated, making our situation even more impossible, and reducing our budget and my recognition as leader to nothing. We couldn't risk losing this status of leader, which will allow me to ask questions to the Premier during the next four years, as few as they are. We could not risk losing even more budget than what was proposed. We could not risk potentially sacrificing the viability of the independence movement in Parliament to try to get a few more crumbs.
Under impossible conditions and with no other leverage, we managed, at the last minute, to make some modest gains before signing a discounted agreement:
- So we will get seven per cent of the questions instead of five per cent, that means two questions per week.
- We'll get $570,000 instead of $495,000, which will allow us to hire an additional staff member.
- We will have a position as a non-voting "observer" member of the Office of the National Assembly instead of no seat at all.
We have gone for the maximum we can get under conditions that make no sense; in conditions where our counterparts are judge and jury, where there is no negotiating power, no independent process and very, very little good faith.
Now, what conclusions can we draw from this episode? First, that we cannot trust François Legault's word. The day after the election, the Premier sent a strong message of openness and a call for collaboration with the opposition. He also said that we must be sensitive to the democratic distortions of the last election and that we must not accentuate them further. François Legault failed his first test. As is too often the case, our Premier is excellent at making statements, but much less so at acting consistently.
Second, who do you think scares the CAQ? The outcome of this negotiation leaves little doubt. It is not Québec Solidaire or the Quebec Liberal Party that the CAQ is afraid of. The CAQ wants to be sure that the PARTI QUÉBÉCOIS will not rise again. What they have not yet understood is that we have already begun to recover and will continue to do so even more over the next four years, despite the limited means at our disposal.
Third, the people of Quebec have not yet said their last word. With the budget we have been granted, we are about two positions short. We have set a goal of raising $120,000 by the end of this year. Since it is an election year, you can donate up to $200. If 600 people make the maximum donation, we will reach our goal together.
We are therefore calling on the 600,000 Quebeckers who have supported us and on all those who are committed to democracy to support this vast fundraising campaign that will allow us to fill these two positions to complete our team and to be able to adequately carry your voice every day. I encourage you to give, no matter how much money you have!
Also, for each day that we are deprived of a question in the House, we will innovate and find another way to question the CAQ, whether in a press briefing or elsewhere.
In closing, I want to reiterate that the Parti Québécois is first and foremost a democrat. In the coming months, we will use all parliamentary means at our disposal to reform the system so that it better represents the will of the people. Unfortunately, our democratic system is increasingly broken and the people who benefit from this dynamic want to make the most of it. The Parti Québécois will work to ensure that this flawed "negotiation" process is the last in Quebec's history. We will propose a reform that will make the process INDEPENDENT and NEUTRAL, and change the rules on recognition that are no longer adapted to our reality.
Thanks to all of you, we will succeed.
Thank you in advance.
This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 50 - November 29, 2022
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