The Parti Québécois (pronounced [paʁti kebekwa]; French for "Quebecer Party"; PQ) is a sovereignist and social democratic provincial political party in Quebec, Canada. The PQ advocates national sovereignty for Quebec involving independence of the province of Quebec from Canada and establishing a sovereign state. The PQ has also promoted the possibility of maintaining a loose political and economic sovereignty-association between Quebec and Canada. The party traditionally has support from the labour movement, but unlike most other social democratic parties, its ties with organized labour are informal. Members and supporters of the PQ are called péquistes (Quebec French pronunciation: [pekɪst] (
|Leader||Pascal Bérubé (interim)|
|Founded||11 October 1968|
|Merger of||Mouvement Souveraineté-Association,|
Rassemblement pour l'Indépendance Nationale
|Headquarters||1200, avenue Papineau|
|Seats in the National Assembly|
9 / 125
The party is an associate member of COPPPAL. The party has strong informal ties to the Bloc Québécois (BQ, whose members are known as "Bloquistes"), the federal party that has also advocated for the secession of Quebec from Canada, but the two are not linked organizationally. As with its federal counterpart, the Parti Québécois has been supported by a wide range of voters in Quebec, from large sections of organized labour to more conservative rural voters.
The PQ is the result of the 1968 merger between former Quebec Liberal Party cabinet minister René Lévesque's Mouvement Souveraineté-Association and the Ralliement national. Following the creation of the PQ, the Rassemblement pour l'Indépendance Nationale held a general assembly that voted to dissolve the RIN. Its former members were invited to join the new Parti Québécois.
Lévesque and the PQ's first government
The PQ faced its first electoral test in the 1970 provincial election, winning seven seats. However, Lévesque was unable to get into the renamed National Assembly. Although it lost one seat in 1973, the decimation of the other parties, particularly the Union Nationale, allowed it to become the official opposition even though Lévesque was still unable to win a seat.
In the 1976 provincial election, the Parti Québécois won government for the first time, taking 71 of the 110 seats available. Lévesque became the Premier of Quebec. This provided cause for celebration among many French-speaking Quebecers, while it resulted in an acceleration of the migration of the province's Anglophone population and related economic activity toward Toronto.
The first PQ government was known as the "republic of professors" because of the large number of scholars in Lévesque's cabinet. The PQ was the first government to recognize the rights of Aboriginal peoples to self-determination, insofar as this self-determination did not affect the territorial integrity of Quebec. The PQ passed laws on public consultations and the financing of political parties, which ensured equal financing of political parties and limited contributions by individuals to $3000. However, the most prominent legacy of the PQ is the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101), a framework law which defines the linguistic primacy of French and seeks to make French the common public language of Quebec. It allowed the advancement of francophones towards management roles, until then largely out of their reach. Despite the fact that 85% of the population spoke French and most of them did not understand English, the language of management was English in most medium and large businesses. Critics, both Francophone and Anglophone, have however criticized the charter for restraining citizens' linguistic school choice, as it forbids immigrants and Quebecers of French descent from attending English-language schools funded by the state (private schools remained an option for those who could afford tuition). The Parti Québécois initiated the 1980 Quebec referendum seeking a mandate to begin negotiation for sovereignty-association. It was rejected by 60 per cent of voters.
The party was re-elected in the 1981 election, but in November 1984 it experienced the most severe internal crisis of its existence. Lévesque wanted to focus on governing Quebec rather than sovereignty, and also wanted to adopt a more conciliatory approach on constitutional issues. This angered the more ardent sovereigntists, known as the purs et durs. Lévesque was forced to resign as a result. In September 1985, the party leadership election chose Pierre-Marc Johnson as his successor.
The PQ led by Johnson was defeated by the Quebec Liberal Party in the 1985 election that saw Robert Bourassa return as premier. The Liberals served in office for two terms and attempted to negotiate a constitutional settlement with the rest of Canada but with the failure of the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord, two packages of proposed amendments to the Canadian constitution, the question of Quebec's status remained unresolved and the Quebec sovereignty movement revived.
Return to power under Parizeau
The PQ returned to power under the leadership of hardline sovereigntist Jacques Parizeau in the 1994 Quebec election. This saw the PQ win 77 seats and 44% of the vote, on a promise to hold an independence referendum within a year. The following year, Parizeau called the 1995 Quebec referendum proposing negotiations on sovereignty. Again, the sovereigntists lost the vote. The final count showed 49.42% of voters supported negotiations that could eventually lead to sovereignty. On the night of the defeat, an emotionally drained Premier Parizeau stated that the loss was caused by "money and ethnic votes" (which led to accusations that Parizeau was racist) as well as by the divided votes amongst francophones. Parizeau resigned the next day (as he is alleged to have planned beforehand in case of a defeat).
Lucien Bouchard, a former member of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's Cabinet and later founder of the Bloc Québécois, a federal-level sovereigntist party, succeeded Parizeau as PQ leader, but chose not to call another referendum due to the absence of "winning conditions". Bouchard's government then balanced the provincial budget – a feat achieved in Canada only by the federal government and a few of the ten Canadian provinces at that point – by reducing government spending, including social programs. The PQ was re-elected in the 1998 election, despite receiving fewer votes than the Quebec Liberal Party led by former federal deputy prime minister Jean Charest. Bouchard resigned in 2001, and was succeeded as PQ leader and Quebec Premier by Bernard Landry, a former PQ Finance minister. Under Landry's leadership, the party lost the 2003 election to Jean Charest's Liberals.
Return to opposition
Mid-late 2004 was difficult for Landry's leadership, which was being contested. A vote was held during the party's June 2005 convention to determine whether Landry continued to have the confidence of the party membership. Landry said he wanted at least 80% of approval and after gaining 76.2% approval on the confidence vote from party membership on 4 June 2005, Landry announced his intention to resign.
Louise Harel had been chosen to replace him until a new leader, André Boisclair, was elected 15 November 2005, through the party's 2005 leadership election. At the time of Boisclair's election, the PQ was as much as 20 percent ahead of the Liberals in opinion polls, suggesting that Boisclair would lead them to a landslide majority government in the next election.
Splintering on the right and the left
Progressives on the left wing of the PQ perceived a rightward move by the party towards neoliberalism under Bouchard, Landry and Boisclair. In 2006, a new left-wing party, Québec solidaire, was formed which included many activists who would have formerly been members or supporters of the PQ. Over subsequent elections, the QS would attract increasing support from left-wing sovereigntists disillusioned with the PQ, while on the right, the ADQ and later the Coalition Avenir Québec attracted the votes of right-wing and soft sovereigntists who eventually become Quebec autonomists and Canadian federalists while retaining their Quebec nationalist identities, resulting in the PQ being squeezed from both sides.
The PQ was unable to maintain the momentum it briefly had under Boisclair, and in the 2007 provincial election, the party fell to 36 seats and behind the conservative Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) in number of seats and the popular vote: this is the first time since 1973 that the party did not form the government or Official Opposition. Boisclair said that the voters clearly did not support a strategy of a rapid referendum in the first mandate of a PQ government. Instead of a policy convention following the election, the party held a presidents' council. The party caucus in the provincial legislative assembly was said to have supported Boisclair continuing as leader.
On May 8, 2007 Boisclair announced his resignation as leader of the PQ. This was effective immediately, although Boisclair confirmed he would remain within the PQ caucus for the time being. He was replaced by veteran MNA François Gendron, pending a leadership race and convention.
Former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe was the first to announce his intention to run for party leadership, on 11 May 2007. He was followed the same day by Pauline Marois. In a surprise move, Duceppe withdrew on the 12th – leaving Marois the only declared candidate. No other candidates came forward, and on 26 June 2007, Marois won the leadership by acclamation.
In June 2011, the party was shaken when three of its most prominent MNAs—popular actor Pierre Curzi, former cabinet minister Louise Beaudoin, and Lisette Lapointe, the wife of former premier Jacques Parizeau, followed the next day by a fourth, Jean-Martin Aussant, quit the party to sit as independents over Marois's support for a bill changing the law to permit an agreement between the City of Québec and Quebecor Inc. concerning the management of the new sports and entertainment complex in Quebec City. Unrest continued later in the month when a fifth MNA, Benoit Charette, also quit, citing his dissatisfaction with the party's sole focus being sovereignty. Beaudoin rejoined the PQ caucus in 2012.
Marois minority government
The party won a minority government under Marois in the 2012 provincial election with 54 of 125 seats in the National Assembly. It embarked on a program of "sovereigntist governance" in relations with the rest of Canada, to return Quebec to balanced budgets through higher taxes and debt reduction, to increase the use of French in public services, and to address resource development in Northern Quebec. However the PQ's 'new Bill 101' did not pass. The centrepiece of the government's program was a Quebec Charter of Values which would have curtailed minority religious identity by banning the wearing of religious symbols by those in the employ of the government, particularly Sikh turbans, Muslim veils and Jewish kippas.
Based on the charter's growing popularity among francophones, Marois called an early election for 7 April 2014 in an attempt to win a majority government. Despite leading in the polls when the writ was dropped, the campaign went badly due to several mishaps. The recruitment of star candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau, whose comments made sovereignty and the prospect of another referendum a focus of the campaign, as well as feminist Janette Bertrand suggesting that wealthy Muslim men were taking over swimming pools, among other incidents badly hurt the PQ. Marois' government was defeated by the Liberals, led by Philippe Couillard, in the 2014 provincial election which resulted in a Liberal majority government. The PQ won 25% of the vote and 30 seats, its worst result in terms of popular vote since 1970. Marois announced her intention to resign as PQ leader that night.
Stéphane Bédard was chosen interim parliamentary leader by the PQ caucus on 10 April 2014.
On the 20 October 2014 Lévis by-election, PQ candidate Alexandre Bégin came in third place, with 8.28% of the popular vote, only narrowly beating Québec Solidaire.
Despite a fiercely contested race, Péladeau was the frontrunner for much of the campaign, causing Jean-François Lisée to drop out in January 2015, Bernard Drainville to drop out on April 22, 2015, and Pierre Céré to follow Drainville only five days before the leadership election.
On May 15, 2015, Pierre Karl Péladeau was elected permanent leader.
Jean-François Lisée leadership
Collapse and brief loss of official party status
The 2018 provincial election unfolded in a historic way, being the first time in a half century a party other than the Parti Québécois or Liberals were elected to power, with a Coalition Avenir Québec majority win. It also marked, for the first time in 42 years, that the Parti Québécois failed to win a sufficient number of seats to maintain its official party status. With only 10 seats won, not only did it lose its official party status, but was relegated to third place (tied with Québec Solidaire) — the party's worst showing in terms of its placement in the National Assembly since the 1970 provincial election when the party first appeared. In this election the Parti Québécois only managed to acquire 17% of the popular vote, the lowest score in party's history. With few exceptions, its support bled to the CAQ; in many cases, ridings that had been in PQ hands for 40 years or more fell by large margins. Leader Jean-François Lisée failed to win his own seat and therefore resigned shortly thereafter, accepting the blame for his party's failure and collapse. After 50 years in the forefront of Quebec politics, the Parti Québécois had been pushed into marginal status, with its very survival in doubt. Indeed, Christian Bourque of Montreal-based pollster Léger Marketing suggested that the PQ was likely finished in its present form, and would have to merge with another sovereigntist party to avoid fading into irrelevance. On November 27, 2018, the CAQ granted both the PQ and Québec solidaire official status in the legislature, despite the parties being short on seats and percentage of the popular vote in order to qualify.
However on March 11, 2019, Catherine Fournier, the current youngest MNA in the party and the province, resigned from the Parti Québécois to sit as an independent, claiming the party had lost its way. This resignation dropped the party into fourth place, losing its standing as second opposition and potentially, losing their official party status once again.
Relationship with the Bloc Québécois
The Bloc Québécois (BQ) is a federal political party founded in 1990 by former Progressive Conservative MP Lucien Bouchard. It has traditionally had close ties to the Parti Québécois and shares its principal objective of sovereignty. The two parties have frequently shared political candidates, and have supported each other during election campaigns. The two parties have a similar membership and voter base. Prominent members of either party often attend and speak at both organizations' public events. Gilles Duceppe, the former Bloc leader, is also the son of Jean Duceppe, a Quebec actor who helped found the PQ.
In June 2014, Mario Beaulieu, a former PQ riding president and Bloc candidate, was elected leader of the Bloc Québécois. Notwithstanding his previous ties to both parties, Beaulieu has been critical of what he sees as a too timid approach to sovereignty by both the Bloc and PQ. Beaulieu's election as Bloc leader was more warmly received by the PQ's rival party, Option nationale, than by the PQ.
Ties to far right groups
In 2018 it was reported that the base of the party, shows a growing coziness between far-right groups like La Meute and Storm Alliance on the one hand, and members and supporters of the Parti Québécois on the other — from grassroots activists to aspiring candidates to officials on the executive council.
The party's distinctive logo was designed in 1968 by painter and poet Roland Giguère. It consists of a stylised letter Q, represented by a blue circle broken by a red arrow. The creator meant it as an allegory of the Parti Québécois breaking the circle of colonialism which he claimed Canada was imposing on Quebec and opening Quebec upon the world and the future. The PQ has made very few significant modifications to its logo during its history. In 1985 it made the circle and arrow slightly thicker, and placed the tip of the latter at the centre of the circle. The original saw it span the whole diameter. When placed upon a blue background instead of a white one, the circle was commonly turned to white, the single main design variation currently observed.
The party revealed a new logo on 21 February 2007, at the beginning of the 2007 provincial election campaign. While maintaining the basic style of past logos, the Q was redesigned and modernized. In addition, the tail of the Q was recoloured green.
The Parti Québécois centres on the protection of the Franco-Québécois identity, up to or including the ultimate result of sovereignty-association. Sovereigntism, however, is 'Article 1' in its party program.
After then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected the long-standing "non-interference, non-indifference" stance towards Quebec should it seek sovereignty in 2009, PQ leader and Premier Pauline Marois' visit to France in October 2012 saw her reinstate it with French President François Hollande. Also during her visit, Marois commented that "Canada's current foreign policy corresponds to neither our values nor our interests".
The PQ delivered a brief to the reasonable accommodation commission on minorities, which conducted hearings across the province. The commission briefing looked to reformulate the relations between Quebec's francophone and minority populations. Its task was to be a platform for the PQ's protectionism of French.
Marois stated there is nothing dogmatic in Francophones wishing to declare their existence even if it includes developing legislation requiring newcomers to have a basic understanding of French before becoming citizens of Quebec. (Note that there are no official citizens of Quebec; residents of Quebec are citizens of Canada.)
Further to her desire to protect French in Quebec, during Marois' visit to France in October 2012, she recommended that the "French elite" conduct themselves only in French on the international scene. However, some of Marois’ international critics scoffed at her pretension that the “French elite” were Québécois.
Marois stated the PQ understands the arrival of newcomers is attractive and they donate largely to Quebec's growth, but she stated that does not imply that to better assimilate them that "we must erase our own history."
As of 2014, the PQ electoral program describes the party's main commitment: "Aspiring to political liberty, the Parti Québécois has as its first objective to achieve the sovereignty of Quebec after consulting the population by a referendum to be held at the moment that the government judges appropriate."
Other electoral issues were the Quebec Charter of Values, and language.
These are the slogans used by the Parti Québécois in general election campaigns throughout its history. They are displayed with an unofficial translation. The elections in which the PQ won or remained in power are in bold.
- 1970: OUI – Yes
- 1973: J'ai le goût du Québec – I have a taste for Quebec
- 1976: On a besoin d'un vrai gouvernement – We need a real government
- 1981: Faut rester forts au Québec – We must remain strong in Quebec
- 1985: Le Québec avec Johnson – Québec with Johnson
- 1989: Je prends le parti du Québec – I'm choosing Quebec's party / I'm taking Quebec's side (double meaning)
- 1994: L'autre façon de gouverner – The other way of governing
- 1998: J'ai confiance – I am confident / I trust
- 2003: Restons forts – Let us stay strong
- 2007: Reconstruisons notre Québec – Let us rebuild our Quebec
- 2008: Québec gagnant avec Pauline – Quebec winning with Pauline
- 2012: À nous de choisir – The choice is ours
- 2014: Plus prospère, plus fort, plus indépendant, plus accueillant – More prosperous, stronger, more independent, more welcoming
- 2018: Sérieusement – Seriously
Until 5 June 2005, the office of Leader of the Parti Québécois was known as President of the Parti Québécois.
|Party leader||Years as party leader||Years as Premier|
|Guy Chevrette||1987–88 (acting)||None|
|Louise Harel||2005 (acting)||None|
|François Gendron||2007 (acting)||None|
|Stéphane Bédard||2014–15 (acting)||None|
|Pierre Karl Péladeau||2015–16||None|
|Sylvain Gaudreault||2016 (acting)||None|
|Pascal Bérubé||2018–present (acting)||None|
Leaders in the legislature
When a Parti Québécois leader does not have a seat in the National Assembly, another member leads the party in the legislature.
|Parliamentary leader||Years as parliamentary leader||Comments|
|René Lévesque||1968–70||René Lévesque sat as an Independent member until the 29 April 1970 election.|
|Camille Laurin||1970–73||René Lévesque did not have a seat from 29 April 1970 to 29 October 1973.|
|Jacques-Yvan Morin||1973–76||René Lévesque did not have a seat from 29 October 1973 to 15 November 1976.|
|Guy Chevrette||1987–89||Became Leader of the Opposition when Johnson resigned on November 10, 1987. Remained parliamentary leader after Jacques Parizeau became party leader from 19 March 1988 until Parizeau won a seat on 25 September 1989.|
|Lucien Bouchard||1996–2001||Lucien Bouchard did not have a seat from 27 January 1996 to 19 February 1996.|
|Louise Harel||2005–06||André Boisclair did not have a seat from 15 November 2005 to 14 August 2006.|
|Pauline Marois||2007–14||Pauline Marois lost her seat on 7 April 2014 and announced her resignation as leader.|
|Stéphane Bédard||2014–15||Interim leader between Marois' defeat and Péladeau's election|
|Pierre Karl Péladeau||2015–16|
|Sylvain Gaudreault||2016||Interim leader following Péladeau's resignation|
|Jean-François Lisée||2016–18||Lost his seat in the general election|
|Pascal Bérubé||2018–present (acting)||Interim leader following Lisée's resignation|
|Party president||Years as party president||Comments|
|Nadia Assimopoulos||1984–88||Nadia Assimopoulos served as acting leader (then known as president) from 20 June 1985 to 29 September 1985.|
General election results
|General election||Leader||# of seats won||Change +/-||% of popular vote||Result|
7 / 108
6 / 110
71 / 110
80 / 122
23 / 122
29 / 125
77 / 125
76 / 125
45 / 125
36 / 125
51 / 125
54 / 125
30 / 125
10 / 125
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