National Assembly of Quebec

The National Assembly of Quebec (French: Assemblée nationale du Québec) is the legislative body of the province of Quebec in Canada. Legislators are called MNAs (Members of the National Assembly; French: députés). The Queen in Right of Quebec, represented by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec[1] and the National Assembly compose the Legislature of Quebec, which operates in a fashion similar to those of other Westminster-style parliamentary systems. The assembly has 125 members elected first past the post from single-member districts.

The National Assembly was formerly the lower house of Quebec's legislature and was then called the Legislative Assembly of Quebec. In 1968, the upper house, the Legislative Council, was abolished and the remaining house was renamed. The office of President of the National Assembly is equivalent to speaker in other legislatures. The Coalition Avenir Québec currently has the most seats in the Assembly following the 2018 Quebec general election.

The Constitutional Act 1791 created the Parliament of Lower Canada. It consisted of two chambers, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. That parliament and both chambers were abolished in 1841 when the 1840 Act of Union merged Upper Canada and Lower Canada into a single province named the Province of Canada. The Act of Union created a new Parliament of the Province of Canada, also composed of a Legislative Council and a Legislative Assembly. That Parliament had jurisdiction over the entire province, with members from Lower Canada and Upper Canada in both houses.

The Constitution Act, 1867 (formerly known as the British North America Act), created Canada, and also created the provinces of Ontario and Quebec by splitting the old Province of Canada into two, based on the old boundaries of Lower Canada and Upper Canada. The act created a new bicameral Legislature for the province of Quebec, composed of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly of Quebec.

In 1968, Bill 90 was passed by the government of Premier Jean-Jacques Bertrand, abolishing the Legislative Council and renaming the Legislative Assembly the "National Assembly", in line with the more strident nationalism of the Quiet Revolution. Before 1968, there had been various unsuccessful attempts at abolishing the Legislative Council, which was analogous to the Senate of Canada.

In 1978, television cameras were brought in for the first time to televise parliamentary debates. The colour of the walls was changed to suit the needs of television and the salon vert (green hall) became the salon bleu (blue hall).

In 1984, Canadian Forces corporal Denis Lortie stormed into the Parliament Building and opened fire, killing three government employees and wounding thirteen others. His intended target was Premier René Lévesque and his Parti Québécois government, however he was around 15 minutes early and the Assembly floor was still mostly empty; no politicians were shot. He surrendered to police hours later.[2]

Constructed between 1877 and 1886, the Parliament Building features the Second Empire architectural style[3] that was popular for prestigious buildings both in Europe (especially France where the style originated) and the United States during the latter 19th century.

Although somewhat more sober in appearance and lacking a towering central belfry, Quebec City's Parliament Building bears a definite likeness to the Philadelphia City Hall, another Second Empire edifice in North America which was built during the same period. Even though the building's symmetrical layout with a frontal clock tower in the middle is typical of legislative institutions of British heritage, the architectural style is believed to be unique among parliament buildings found in other Canadian provincial capitals.[citation needed] Its façade presents a pantheon representing significant events and people of the history of Quebec.

In 1936, Maurice Duplessis hung a crucifix in the Legislative Assembly chamber. It hung there for 83 years, until it was removed on 10 July 2019.[4]

Additional buildings were added, adjacent to the Parliament Buildings:

General elections are held every four years or less. Since 2014, the legislature has had a fixed four-year term, with elections taking place no later than "the first Monday of October of the fourth calendar year following the year that includes the last day of the previous Legislature."[5] However, the lieutenant governor, acting on the advice of the premier, can dissolve the legislature and call an election earlier. Any person holding Canadian citizenship and who has resided in Quebec for at least six months qualifies to be on the electoral list.

Normally, the lieutenant governor invites the leader of the political party with the largest number of elected candidates to form the government as premier. (In French, it is rendered as premier ministre. The term prime minister is commonly used by the government as a literal translation of the French term. In the other Canadian Provinces, the head of government are referred to in English as "premier". The title is similarly rendered "premier ministre" in French, too. The term literally means "first minister". When used in the plural, "first ministers" in Canada refers collectively to the provincial premiers and the prime minister of Canada).

Quebec's territory is divided into 125 electoral districts (ridings). In each riding, the candidate who receives the most votes is elected and becomes a member of the National Assembly (MNA). This is known as the first-past-the-post voting system. It tends to produce strong disparities in the number of seats won compared to the popular vote, perhaps best exemplified by the 1966, 1970, 1973, and 1998 elections.

Quebec elections have also tended to be volatile since the 1970s, producing a large turnover in Assembly seats. Consequently, existing political parties often lose more than half their seats with the rise of new or opposition political parties. For instance, the 1970 and 1973 saw the demise of the Union Nationale and rise of the Parti Québécois which managed to take power in 1976. The 1985 and 1994 elections saw the Liberals gain and lose power in landslide elections. The 2018 elections saw the rise of the Coalition Avenir Québec which took power for the first time.

Cabinet ministers are in bold, party leaders are in italic and the president of the National Assembly is marked with a †.

Note: Bold text designates the party leader, the Parti Québécois leader currently does not have a seat in the National Assembly, and Québec Solidaire's leadership is shared by Massé and Nadeau-Dubois.

Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) swear two oaths: one to the Canadian monarch as Quebec's head of state, and a second one to the people of Quebec. Previous Parti Québécois premier René Lévesque added the second oath.[6]

One of the members of the National Assembly is elected as President of the Assembly (a post called speaker in most other Westminster System assemblies). Any member of the assembly is eligible to stand for election, other than party leaders and Cabinet ministers. The election is the first order of business for a newly elected assembly. It is conducted by secret ballot of all members, with successive rounds of voting if needed before one candidate gains a majority of the votes.[9]

The president of the assembly is the arbiter of the parliamentary debates between the members of the government and the members of the Opposition. In order for a member to address the assembly, the member speak through the president. The president is usually a member of the governing party.

The proceedings of the National Assembly are broadcast across Quebec on the cable television network Canal de l'Assemblée nationale.