(Quebec) The Legault government is committed to “quickly” tabling a bill making the oath of allegiance to the king optional for elected officials, an “important” gesture underlined by Québec solidaire, which does not exclude pledging allegiance to the sovereign for the last time. For its part, the Parti Québécois maintains the hard line.
“I think the Parti Québécois must accept the outstretched hand offered to it. We don’t want to take an oath to the king, and we can change that by passing a bill in the National Assembly. However, you have to sit […] We are ready to table a bill quickly to put an end to the oath of allegiance to the king,” said Minister of Justice and Government House Leader Simon Jolin-Barrette.
He made this statement on the sidelines of a negotiation meeting between the parties to decide whether or not to recognize Québec solidaire (QS) and the Parti québécois (PQ) as parliamentary groups. But these important discussions – they will determine the research budgets and the ability of these parties to hire political personnel, in particular – found themselves in the shadow of another debate, that on the oath of allegiance to the king. Charles III.
Earlier this fall, the PQ and QS refused to swear allegiance to the sovereign. They were trying to negotiate a passageway to avoid this ritual considered obsolete. On Tuesday, the President of the National Assembly, François Paradis, cut short the debate: as long as the oath is not taken, they will not be able to sit in the Blue Room or in the parliamentary committee, and could be expelled. He also ruled that it was not possible to remedy the situation by a simple parliamentary motion as the PQ wants, that it had to be done by means of a law, since the obligation stems from the Constitution Act of 1867.
But to pass a law, you have to sit in the Blue Room, and therefore… take an oath of allegiance to Charles III, for the last time. QS elected officials will have to weigh the pros and cons in caucus. “There are two new elements that have arrived [mardi] and [mercredi] : the President’s decision and the House Leader’s commitment to quickly table a bill to make the oath optional. These are two important elements that I must report to the caucus,” explained the solidarity parliamentary leader, Alexandre Leduc.
In the Parti Québécois, however, both Mr. Paradis’ decision and the proposal of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) were rejected. Chef Paul St-Pierre Plamondon maintains a hard line. “Lying and perjuring myself as the first act as an elected official is sincerely repugnant to me. To swear allegiance to the representative of the Anglican Church is sincerely repugnant to me. And no, I do not intend to take the oath, ”he said in a press scrum.
He says that several options are on the table: for example, asking Pascal Bérubé or Joël Arseneau – the other two elected members of the PQ – to take an oath to sit, or simply to stay on the sideline.
Lack of will
But he maintains that a parliamentary motion is the best option, and that the CAQ lacks “political will”. “The law is a much less robust solution, because it will be subject to the examination of the application of the Constitution by the courts. The odds of this law failing are much higher than [dans le cas de] the motion, which is a matter of internal management of the Assembly,” he said.
He directly attacked the credibility of the President of the National Assembly and the legal basis of his decision. Mr. Paradis is no longer a deputy, and will be replaced as soon as parliament returns. He is a “very outgoing” president who received a “political order” from the CAQ, he said. He regrets that this decision has “closed the door to the negotiations and the solutions that are already on the table”.
The caquiste Simon Jolin-Barrette, he denied having asked Mr. Paradis to intervene. He finds it “worrying” that the PQ is questioning a decision of the Assembly, and urges the party to take an oath to pass a law with QS and the CAQ.
For Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon, this reflection “lacks height”. “They say in veiled words: we took an oath, we weren’t tempted, so you too are going to take an oath,” he cursed.
But whether it is to vote on a law or to vote on a motion, it is necessary to be able to sit. Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon acknowledges that he could not vote for the motion he is asking the CAQ to allow it to do its job as legislator without pledging allegiance to the king. “Obviously they’re the only ones who have the power to do that,” he said.