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Liberal Party of Quebec

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Title: Liberal Party of Quebec  
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Liberal Party of Quebec

Quebec Liberal Party
Parti Libéral du Québec
Leader Philippe Couillard
President Saul Polo
Founded July 1, 1867 (1867-07-01)
Headquarters 7240 Rue Waverly, Montreal, Quebec, H2R 2Y8
1535 Chemin Sainte-Foy, suite 120, Quebec City, Quebec, G1S 2P1
Ideology Liberalism
Federalism (Québécois)
Autonomism (Québécois)
Canadian nationalism
* Social democracy[1]
* Social liberalism
* Neoliberalism
Political position Factions range from Centre-left to Centre-right
Official colours Red
Seats in the National Assembly
48 / 125
Politics of Quebec
Political parties

The Quebec Liberal Party (French: Parti libéral du Québec, PLQ) is a federalist[2] provincial political party in Quebec, Canada. It has been independent of the federal Liberal Party of Canada since 1955.

The party has traditionally supported a form of Quebec federalism that supports Quebec being within Canada while also having substantial autonomy within Canada. While it has recently been sometimes described as centre-right in the context of Canadian politics,[3] the party believes in a strong role for government in the economy and supports socially liberal policies.[4] Also the party has had a prominent social democratic faction within it that was historically prominent in the party during the Quiet Revolution.[1] Former PLQ member and cabinet minister Thomas Mulcair left the PLQ in 2007 to run for Member of Parliament on behalf of the federal social democratic New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) and has since become leader of the federal NDP.

The Quebec Liberals have always been associated with the colour red; each of their three main opponents in different eras have been associated with the colour blue. In 2007, however, the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), also of blue tradition, temporarily became the official opposition in the National Assembly of Quebec.



The Liberal Party is descended from:

  1. the Parti canadien, or Parti Patriote who supported the 1837 Lower Canada Rebellion, and
  2. the Parti rouge, who fought for responsible government and against the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in Lower Canada.

The most notable figure of this period was Louis-Joseph Papineau.


The Liberals were in opposition to the ruling Conservatives for most of the first 20 years after Canadian Confederation, except for 18 months of Liberal minority government in 1878-1879. However, the situation changed in 1885 when the federal Conservative government executed Louis Riel, the leader of the French-speaking Métis people of western Canada. This decision was unpopular in Quebec. Honoré Mercier rode this wave of discontent to power in 1887, but was brought down by a scandal in 1891. He was later cleared of all charges. The Conservatives returned to power until 1897.

The Liberals won the 1897 election, and held power without interruption for the next 39 years; the Conservatives never held power in Québec again. This mirrored the situation in Ottawa, where the arrival of Wilfrid Laurier in the 1896 federal election marked the beginning of Liberal Party of Canada dominance at the federal level. Notable long-serving Premiers of Quebec in this era were Lomer Gouin and Louis-Alexandre Taschereau.

By 1935, however, the Conservatives had an ambitious new leader, Maurice Duplessis. Duplessis merged his party with dissident ex-Liberals who had formed the Action libérale nationale. Duplessis led the new party, the Union Nationale (UN), to power in the 1936 election. The Liberals returned to power in the 1939 election, but lost it again in the 1944 election. They remained in opposition to the Union Nationale until one year after Duplessis's death in 1959.

In 1955, the PLQ severed its affiliation with the Liberal Party of Canada, and, at times since then, relations between the two parties have been strained.


Under Jean Lesage, the party won an historic election in 1960, ending sixteen years of rule by the national-conservative Union Nationale. This marked the beginning of the Quiet Revolution, which dramatically changed Québec society. Under the slogan maîtres chez nous (masters in our own house), the Quebec government undertook several major initiatives, including:

  • creation of a public pension plan, the Régie des rentes du Québec, separate from the Canada Pension Plan that exists in all other provinces of Canada;

Under Lesage, the Liberals developed a Quebec nationalist wing. In July 1964, the Quebec Liberal Federation led by Lesage formally disaffiliated from the federal Liberal Party of Canada making the Quebec Liberal Party a distinct organization from its federal counterpart.[5][6]

In October 1967, former cabinet minister René Lévesque's proposed that the party endorse his plan for sovereignty association. The proposal was rejected and, as a result, some Liberals, including senior Cabinet minister Lévesque, left the Liberals to join the sovereignty movement, participating in the founding of the Parti Québécois (PQ) under Lévesque's leadership.[6]

Relations soured between the Quebec Liberal Party and the federal Liberal Party under Lesage, and worsened further under Robert Bourassa who had a poor relationship with Pierre Trudeau.

First elected in 1970, Robert Bourassa instituted Bill 22 to introduce French language as the official language in Quebec, and pushed Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau for constitutional concessions. Reelected in 1973, his government was also embarrassed by several scandals. Bourassa resigned from the party's leadership after the loss of the 1976 election to René Lévesque's Parti Québécois.

Bourassa was succeeded as Liberal leader by Claude Ryan, the former director of the respected Montréal newspaper, Le Devoir. Ryan led the successful federalist campaign in the 1980 Quebec referendum on Québec sovereignty, but then lost the 1981 election. He resigned as Liberal leader some time later, paving the way for the return of Robert Bourassa.

When Bourassa returned as Premier in 1985, he successfully persuaded the federal Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney to recognize Quebec as a distinct society, and sought greater powers for Quebec and the other provinces. This resulted in the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional accords. Both of these proposals, however, were not ratified. While a Quebec nationalist, Bourassa remained an opponent of independence for Quebec.

Daniel Johnson, Jr. succeeded Bourassa as Liberal leader and Premier of Québec in 1994, but soon lost the 1994 election to the Parti Québécois under Jacques Parizeau.

In 1993, after the failure of the Charlottetown Accord, many nationalist members of the Liberal party led by Jean Allaire and Mario Dumont, including many from the party's youth wing, left to form the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) because the Liberal Party dropped most of its autonomist demands during the negotiation of the Charlottetown Accord. As in 1980, the PLQ campaigned successfully for a "no" vote in the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty.

Modern era

The contemporary Québec Liberal Party is a broad-based coalition including among its members some supporters of the federal Liberals and some supporters of the federal New Democratic Party, as well as some supporters of the federal Conservative Party of Canada. In terms of voter support, it has always been able to rely on the great majority of non-francophones in Québec.[7]

The Liberals regained power in the 2003 election. Premier Jean Charest was a federal cabinet minister with the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party including a stint as Deputy Prime Minister and even serving as its leader for a time. The QLP government proposed a policy of reform of social programs and cuts to government spending and the civil service, and established a controversial health system fee for all taxpayers.

It has also softened language policies. For example, in response to a Supreme Court of Canada decision overruling a loophole-closing stopgap measure enacted by the Bernard Landry government, the Liberals enacted Loi 104 which provides for English-language, unsubsidized private school students to transfer into the subsidized English-language system, thus receiving the right to attend English schools in Québec for their siblings and all descendants, should the student demonstrate a bureaucratically-defined parcours authentique within the English system. Meanwhile, the Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language) under the Liberal provincial government has also opted for a demand-side strategy for the enforcement of language laws, using a number of publicity campaigns, including stickers which merchants may voluntarily affix on their shop windows stating that French service may be obtained within, allowing for consumers to "choose" stores which will serve them in French.

The Liberal party suffered a major setback in the 2007 election, which saw them reduced to a minority government, having lost francophone support to the surging ADQ.[8] However, the party regained a majority in the 2008 election, which saw the collapse of ADQ support and the return of the Parti Québécois as the main opposition party. Election turnout was the lowest in Québec since the Quiet Revolution.

Since its most recent election the Liberal government has faced a number of scandals, including historic losses at the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the attribution of highly-sought subsidized daycare spaces to Liberal Party donors, as well as allegations of systemic construction industry corruption which arose notably during the 2009 Montréal municipal election. After public pressure, the Liberal government eventually called for a public commission of inquiry. Jean Charest's personal approval ratings have at times been lower than those of other premiers.[9]

In 2012 the Liberal government announced it was going to raise university tuition from $2,168 to $3,793 in increments between 2012 and 2017. This move proved controversial, leading to a significant portion of Quebec post-secondary students striking against the measures. In response to the discord the Quebec Liberal government introduced controversial emergency legislation via Bill 78 that restricted student protest activities, attacking students' right to strike and to demonstrate peacefully, and dealt with the administrative issues resulting from so many students missing classes.

After almost a decade in power, the Liberal government of Jean Charest was defeated in the 2012 provincial election by the Parti Québécois led by Pauline Marois. Charest was also personally defeated in his constituency and resigned as party leader.


The Quebec Liberal Party has faced various opposing parties in its history. Its main opposition from the time of Confederation (1867) to the 1930s was the Parti conservateur du Québec. That party's successor, the Union Nationale, was the main opposition to the Liberals until the 1970s. Since then the Liberals have alternated in power with the Parti Québécois, a Quebec sovereigntist, self-described social-democratic party.

Party leaders

Further information: Quebec Liberal Party leadership conventions

Election results (since 1867)

General election # of candidates # of seats won % of popular vote
1867 40 12 39.8%
1871 38 19 40.5%
1875 46 19 40.5%
1878 59 31 29.7%
1881 46 14 39.4%
1886 49 33 39.5%
1890 68 43 46.4%
1892 62 21 44.2%
1897 78 51 54.6%
1900 77 67 54.8%
1904 87 68 65.7%
1908 76 57 54.2%
1912 83 62 53.5%
1916 85 75 64.0%
1919 99 74 65.4%
1923 92 63 52.9%
1927 86 75 60.3%
1931 90 79 54.9%
1935 91 48 46.8%
1936 89 14 40.0%
1939 87 70 54.1%
1944 91 37 39.4%
1948 93 8 36.2%
1952 92 23 45.8%
1956 93 20 44.9%
1960 95 51 51.3%
1962 97 63 56.40%
1966 108 50 47.29%
1970 108 72 45.40%
1973 110 102 54.65%
1976 110 26 33.77%
1981 122 42 46.07%
1985 122 99 55.99%
1989 125 92 49.95%
1994 125 47 44.40%
1998 125 48 43.55%
2003 125 76 45.99%
2007 125 48 33.07%
2008 125 66 42.06%
2012 125 50 31.20%

See also


External links

  • Parti libéral du Québec official site (English)
  • National Assembly historical information (French)
  • Liberal Party Election Performances (French)
  • EQUITAS Rule of Law Commission - Québec File Independent Supervising Body providing forensic analysis of QLP form of governance.
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