Canada’s Quebec’s English-French divide: Parti Québécois back in minority after a decade

September 9, 2012


National Assembly’s makeup will look vastly different

By Monique Muise
The Gazette

MONTREAL- The ornate rooms, plush chairs and sweeping staircases of Quebec’s National Assembly will look much the same when the province’s 125 MNAs file into work in a little over a month, but that is likely where the familiarity will end.

The province’s 40th general election dramatically changed the face of the legislature, with voters replacing a Liberal majority with a minority Parti Québécois government, turfing some big-name incumbents (including the premier himself) and electing plenty of new faces to replace them.

The new crop of MNAs will include 41 women, among them the province’s first female premier, Pauline Marois. That works out to about 33 per cent of the assembly, and represents a moderate increase over the 2008 provincial election, which saw 37 women elected. While still far from achieving gender parity, Quebec’s provincial government now boasts a higher proportion of female members than any other province or territory in Canada.

Julie Miville-Dechêne, president of Quebec’s Conseil du statut de la femme, took to her personal blog on Wednesday to express her delight with Quebec’s new female premier.

“Beyond all partisanship, le Conseil du statut de la femme can only rejoice that this important threshold has been passed,” she wrote, but cautioned that while more women were elected than in 2008, fewer presented themselves as candidates.

“We surpassed the 30 per cent mark in 2008, but we fell back this time to 28 per cent of candidacies — 254 women out of 894 candidates.”

The age breakdown among MNAs when the assembly resumes will remain largely the same. While the precise birthdate of every member has not yet been published on the National Assembly website, The Gazette was able to calculate an approximate average age of 52.7 years old. At one end of the spectrum sits 20-year-old former student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin, now the MNA for Laval-des-Rapides and the youngest person ever to be elected to the provincial legislature. Two other MNAs, Mathieu Traversy and Dave Turcotte (both PQ), are also in their twenties. Karine Vallières, 34, is among a smattering of people in their thirties, and is taking over from her father, Yvon Vallières, as MNA for Richmond. The National Assembly now includes more than two dozen MNAs in their forties, but over half of the total seats will be occupied by people age 50 to 70. The oldest person elected was Liberal Jean-Paul Diamond, 72, who represents Maskinongé. He is one of four septuagenarians who won on Sept 4.

“On the age front, the PQ did seem to have candidates that range the gamut of ages, and that’s important because a party can only last if it can renew itself,” said McGill political science professor Antonia Maioni. “That’s a question that all political parties have to keep in mind, because if their members keep on aging, they have to make sure that they can bring their message to younger generations.”

While reaching out to Quebec’s youngest voters may be important, parties also need to consider how they can engage with the province’s immigrant and visible minority populations. While Quebec society is becoming increasingly multicultural and multi-ethnic, especially in urban centres, the provincial government still doesn’t reflect this. As of 2006, visible minorities accounted for approximately nine per cent of Quebec’s total population, but fewer than 10 members of the new legislature (about five per cent) are members of a visible minority group. None are aboriginal.

“The big question is why?” Maioni said. “Politics is something you have to engage in, so why is it that we don’t have more engagement on the part of women or on the part of minorities? Is it because they’re finding other ways of expressing themselves politically — you could say that about young people, for example — or is it because there are some barriers within political parties or within the networking process?”


The Premier of Quebec (President of the Executive Council) is the province’s head of government. The Premier is a member of Canada’s National Assembly and is usually head of the party winning the most seats in the National Assembly of Quebec.

Pauline Marois is the current leader of the Parti Québécois and is the 30th Premier of Quebec.


Video: Change in Quebec government


Video: CBC News Pauline Marois and 6 critical minutes


Video: Parti Quebecois wins election in the Province of Quebec


Video: Quebec election celebration turned drama


Quebec Population: 7,903,001

Quebec is the 2nd most populated province of Canada

Ontario is the most populated  province of Canada with 12,851,821

Compared to the largest US states in population

1  California 37,691,912
2  Texas 25,674,681
3  New York 19,465,197
4  Florida 19,057,542
5  Illinois 12,869,257
6  Pennsylvania 12,742,886
7  Ohio 11,544,951
8  Michigan 9,876,187
9  Georgia 9,815,210
10  North Carolina 9,656,401
11  New Jersey 8,821,155


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