Quebec Does Not Love Coalitions


As the election campaign in Quebec comes down to the wire, many journalists have mused on the possible outcomes, which now center on either a majority PQ government, or a minority PQ government, or a minority CAQ government. Pauline Marois has declared that a minority PQ government would not pursue a third referendum – which only strengthened her plea that Quebeckers give the PQ a parliamentary majority. Francois Legault has declared the continuation of the Charest government a virtual impossibility and urged disaffected Liberals to vote CAQ. Taking stock during the closing days of the campaign, Radio-Canada held a panel on probable outcomes – and they talked in terms of single-party minority government rather than in terms of coalition government.

Coalition governments simply do not figure into the norms of Quebec politics, because most National Assemblies have resulted in a single-party majority government. Coalition governments become especially impractical where three parties remain in contention for forming government, because they all run against one another during an election and seek to present themselves as alternative governments between elections. The smaller secessionist parties (Option nationale and Quebec solidaire) could enter into a coalition as the junior partners of the Parti quebecois if they gained sufficient support, because neither could never form government independently. But since the CAQ has clearly presented itself as a rival to both the PQ and the Liberals, it couldn’t maintain its integrity as a party or credibility as a third option if it entered into a coalition with either of the two established parties and propped up either the beleaguered Charest government or a new Marois government. Logically, it would choose to maintain the balance of power in the opposition rather than render itself a junior partner in a coalition government.

As I tried to remind a certain prominent pundit regarding my earlier entry on the Liberal-New Democratic Coalition of 2008, the argument that coalition governments remain outside Canadian and Quebec political norms does not suggest that coalition governments are illegal. (Quebeckers largely supported that particular arrangement because, with the support of the Bloc, it could have given Quebec more prominence within the federal Cabinet vis-à-vis the other provinces). Rather, coalition governments are merely undesirable or impossible under most circumstances for the reasons stated above. Alluding to Benjamin Disraeli’s quip about British politics in the 19th century, I would conclude that at the provincial level, “Quebec does not love coalitions.”

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