At the time this article was written Christian
Comeau was a Research Officer with the Inter-Parliamentary Relations Office of
the Quebec National Assembly
In New France, there were no. representative
assemblies, nor were there any in France at that time. New France was administered
by a body called the Supreme Council created in 1663 which comprised the
Governor of New France and of the Bishop who jointly appointed five
councillors. From 1665 outwards, the Administrator of the colony was added to
this political and judicial body. After the British conquest, the Royal
Proclamation of October 7, 1763 raised the possibility of convening a general
assembly of "Freeholders"; but the Governor of Quebec did not think
it would be wise to do so, in view of the reluctance of the so--called new
subjects who were, moreover, excluded from it by The Test. Therefore, the new
British colony was administered by a Governor supported by a Legislative
Council that was completely devoted to his Excellency. In 1774, the Quebec Act
increased the number of legislative councillors to twenty, abolished The Test,
but made no reference whatsoever to any future elected assembly.
The English merchants and citizens were
dissatisfied with a system which did not give them the same advantages as their
London counterparts. The arrival of the American Loyalists increased
the--pressure and even the French speaking elite were won over to the cause and
regarded the setting up of an elected House as an excellent tool to defend
The pressures increased and, in 1791, the
Constitutional Act, which divided the Colony into two provinces, established
for each of them a system of government consisting of a Governor appointed by
the King, assisted by a Legislative Council appointed by the King, upon the
Governor's recommendations, and an elected Legislative Assembly . Thus, Quebec
had its first parliament, the Parliament of Lower Canada. From 1792 to --1833,
the Assembly held its sessions in the chapel of the Bishop's Palace. At that
latter date, it moved into new premises built at the same location.
In 1840, the Union Act reversed this
evolution and Lower Canada ceased to exist. Quebec lost its parliament which
was replaced by a travelling parliament . After holding its sessions in
Kingston (1841--1843), the Union's Parliament tried to settle down in Montreal,
in 1844, only to be driven from it in 1849 by a fire. The Assembly moved to
Toronto in 1850, where it remained for one year only and came to sit in Quebec
City from 1852 to 1855 .
Back in Toronto, in 1858, the Honourable
Members of Parliament decided to put an end to this rotation. Consequently, in
1859, Quebec City was chosen as temporary capital from 1860 to 1865, and
Bytown, which was to become Ottawa, was chosen as permanent capital.
The Confederation gave back to Quebecers
their own Parliament and Quebec City was able to regain its title of capital.
Since 1867, the evolution of the
Parliamentary system in Quebec progressed steadily. The traditions as a whole
and the spirit of the system have been respected, however, the institution
continued to progress. The Legislative Council was abolished in 1968, without
any protest, and the Legislative Assembly became the National Assembly. Today,
after thirty--one legislatures, Quebec's Parliament along with parliaments of
the same kind, is faced with the same problems and challenges, which although
they are serious, are not regarded as endangering that institution which proved
its capacity for change and adaptation.
Among the latest innovations, we must
emphasise the establishment, on a trial basis, of set dates for the beginning
and the end of the annual sessions; a new schedule which gives the House
Friday off, which makes it possible to set up a new procedure, the
Question with debate, during which a Parliamentary Commission can study
a department's specific policies, without requiring the tabling of a Bill on
the subject. Furthermore, as of the beginning of the next session, on October
3, the Assembly's proceedings will be broadcast on television.
In our latest issue, we informed our readers
that the Quebec National Assembly will host, from October 11 to 14, a
full--fledged conference on the British parliamentary system. We were told that
the preparations for that conference are making good progress. It is worth recalling
that it was the Speaker, the Hon. Richard, who had taken the initiative of
suggesting this event in February, during the Regional Council's Meeting, at
which time the suggestion was unanimously accepted. The Quebec Branch and its
administrative secretary, M. Paul Trotier, immediately started to work on it.
Not less than ninety--two (92)
parliamentarians from all the legislatures in Canada are expected.
Representatives from the United States House of Representatives, from Great
Britain's House of Commons and from France's National Assembly have been
invited, along with representatives from the CPAs Secretariat, from the
International Association of French--speaking Parliamentarians and from the
National Conference of State Legislatures
The e following is the list of the speakers
and of the subjects which will be dealt with:
The British Parliamentary System: An
Anachronism or a Modern Reality?
Mr. Michael Rush, Professor at Oxford,
University' s Exeter College
The French Parliamentary System: Mr. . André
Chandernagor, M.N.A., Member of the French National Assembly
The American Parliamentary System: Mr. .
Floyd M. Riddick, Former member of the Senate and Adviser to the Committee on
Rules and Administration of the United States Senate
Workship A) Do Members of Parliament
still have a role to play as legislators?
Mr. . John M. Reid, M.P.,(Member of the
House of Commons)
Mr. Réjean Pelletier, (Professor at Laval
University's, Political Science Department)
Workshop B) Can delegated legislation, with
or without control, become a standard method of government?
Mr. Neville Johnson, Professor at Oxford
University, Nuffield College
Mr. Gary Levy, Research Branch, Library of
Le Salon Bleu National Assembly of Quebec
Workshop C) Can a Member of Parliament
effectively control the operation of the public administration?
Mr. Paul Fox, Dean of Toronto University's,
Mr. André Bernard, Professor of the
Political Science, Department of the University of Quebec in Montreal
Summary and Prospects
Mr. Léon Dion, Professor at Laval
University's Political Science Department.