The drama playing out in Quebec’s capital over the Parti Québécois’s refusal to swear the oath of office to the King reached its climax Thursday, as the three elected members of the party were barred from taking their seats in the legislature by the sergeant-at-arms.
Inside the chamber, Speaker Nathalie Roy told the other members — all of whom swore allegiance to King Charles III after the Oct. 3 provincial election — that her decision to forbid the PQ from entering was final and could not be appealed.
“I hope that this decision will put an end to the debate on the consequences of not taking the oath of allegiance, and that the members who have chosen not to take it will govern themselves accordingly,” Roy said.
To sit, elected Quebec members must take two oaths of loyalty: one to the Quebec people and another — as required by the Canadian Constitution — to the King. Roy said the Speaker cannot unilaterally change the rules, adding that it will take a law adopted by the legislature to modify the oath of office.
Quebec Premier François Legault told reporters earlier in the day that his government would table a motion next week to abolish the oath to the King. And Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesman for Québec solidaire, said his party tabled a motion Thursday to make that oath optional.
Quebec’s 43rd legislative session opened on Tuesday with the election of Roy as Speaker, followed by Wednesday’s inaugural speech by Legault, whose Coalition Avenir Québec won a large majority in October. The legislature will break for the holidays Dec. 9.
The PQ was reduced to three seats in the election, and for weeks after, the party gained a lot of attention in the media over its refusal to swear the oath.
St-Pierre Plamondon said Thursday he will remain outside the Blue Room until he no longer has to pledge allegiance to the King. He was optimistic, however, that a law could be adopted as early as next week, allowing the PQ’s three-member caucus to enter.
“I’m still very optimistic because this is moving forward, when you have all political parties saying we want this solved and solved quickly,” St-Pierre Plamondon said, referring to the fact that the Liberals have also signalled they would vote in favour of ending the mandatory oath.
“We’re aiming at something that’s difficult to change, and we are very close to that objective being achieved, so I’m very optimistic.”
It’s still unclear how long it will take to pass a bill about the oath of office. Legault, meanwhile, says his government is focused on addressing the rising cost of living.
“The current priority is to help Quebecers cope with inflation,” Legault said Thursday. “If for the PQ there are other priorities, it is their choice.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.
— Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press