Quebec’s newest political marriage was officially consummated Sunday after members of the small Action Démocratique du Québec voted to join the province’s most popular party, the Coalition Avenir Québec.
The new political bedfellows – a populist, right-of-centre party and an upstart formation trying to dodge political labels – are evidence of the ever-shifting ground of Quebec politics.
The vote, with 70 per cent in favour of the merger, effectively spells the demise of the ADQ and realignment of Quebec political forces. Formed 18 years ago under the leadership of Mario Dumont, the ADQ became Quebec’s official opposition in 2007 and drove Jean Charest’s Liberals to minority-government status.
In its latest incarnation, however, the ADQ had been reduced to four members in the National Assembly; they will sit as members of François Legault’s Coalition, along with five other MNAs who joined the party, when the Quebec legislature begins a new session next month.
The merger agreement between the two parties was reached in December but ADQ members were given a say through a mail-in ballot. About 54 per cent of members voted.
The political union will be a test of whether Mr. Legault can maintain a cohesive vision in a party that includes former members of the Parti Québécois – such as himself – as well as the more federalist-leaning members once part of the ADQ.
Last week, François Rebello became the third MNA from the PQ to sign up with Mr. Legault's party, known as the CAQ. Mr. Rebello said he still believed in sovereignty.
But outgoing ADQ leader Gérard Deltell insisted on Sunday that Mr. Legault’s party wasn’t interested in tackling the national-unity file.
“The CAQ was born from the desire to set aside the constitutional debate and attack the real, concrete, direct, immediate problems of Quebeckers,” he said. “We are not here to prepare sovereignty.”
He said the merger of the two parties would be a step toward “realistic and responsible government” that would be “a concrete alternative to the government of Jean Charest.”
Mr. Legault is set to announce on Monday that Dominique Anglade, who has spoken at federal Liberal Party conferences, will be named his party’s president. Ms. Anglade is a consultant and president of Kanpe, a non-profit humanitarian group active in rebuilding Haiti. A member of a prominent Haitian-Canadian family, her parents perished in the 2010 earthquake that devastated their homeland.
The merger announcement on Sunday comes at a time of exceptional ferment in provincial politics. PQ Leader Pauline Marois spent Sunday reasserting her leadership over her divided party, and Mr. Charest remains unpopular.
“The political situation is extremely fluid,” Pierre Martin, a political scientist at the Université de Montréal, said on Sunday. “People are looking first and foremost to replace the Liberals, and they also see great weaknesses in the PQ, so they’re looking at the first available option. There’s a will for change.”
Prof. Martin said the arrival of former ADQ members into the CAQ formation will test the new party and the leadership style of Mr. Legault.
“It’s essentially a movement orchestrated from the top, where very few people have anything to say apart from Mr. Legault himself,” Prof. Martin said. “Voters still have a lot of questions about the party that remain unanswered.”