Liberal governments have always taken democracy to heart.
Since the start of the 20th century, they’ve worked to improve its role in Quebec society, for example by fighting for women’s right to vote or, more recently, by developing several measures to improve transparency. The aspiration of Philippe Couillard’s Liberal government, when it was formed in April 2014, was clear: that this government should be the most open and the most transparent in Quebec’s history. This goal has guided the efforts of the Liberal premier and his team from the start and all throughout their mandate. What follows is a brief recap of the Liberals’ major steps forward in this respect.
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A history marked by achievements that shaped Quebec’s democracy
Throughout its history, the Quebec Liberal Party has worked tirelessly to perfect and protect democracy in Quebec.
One of the first steps in this direction was to grant women the right to vote thanks to the act passed by Adélard Godbout’s government on April 25, 1940. Later, in the early 1960s, the Liberals led the attack against the clientist practices adopted by members of the Union Nationale and, more widely, by members of its caucus. The latter were offering “gifts and envelopes” in exchange for votes. Carrying on this momentum, Jean Lesage’s government worked to guarantee political pluralism in the province and instituted a competent, honest, and impartial public service. The Liberal Party also worked, over the course of its history, to promote the emergence of an independent judiciary as part of the effective separation of powers, a concept dear to thinkers like Montesquieu and essential to any democratic society.
Unwavering determination to bring the government closer to citizens
Today, like other great democracies, Quebec has many challenges to confront. In a context marked by the disintegration of citizens’ confidence in political representatives and public institutions, the Liberal Party intends to actively participate in reforming the constitutional state.
Though no political society is spared from abuse, the legislator must take every means necessary to ensure the equality of all before the law, an essential condition for the preservation of a nation’s unity. To the extent that certain situations favour collusion of private and public interests, we reiterate our commitment to make ethics a cardinal value behind our public actions. Over the past years, the Liberal Party has taken several strong initiatives in this direction. Recall for example the creation in 2010 of the Code of Ethics and Conduct of the Members of the National Assembly. Regarding this project, we invite you to follow the ongoing efforts to modernize the Code of Ethics, led by the Minister responsible for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions in collaboration with the National Assembly’s Committee on Institutions. The Ethics Commissioner has analyzed the application of the Code of Ethics and Conduct of the Members of the National Assembly in his first five-year report. His findings will be added to the ethics recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry (the Charbonneau Commission) and implemented by the Liberal government.
Additionally, the adoption in 2013 of a QLP Code of Ethics and Conduct—making the Quebec Liberal Party the only political entity in Quebec to have such a code—testifies to our desire to implement governance of irreproachable ethics.
More concretely, the Liberal Party wants to promote a new type of governance based on a strong government of Quebec. Within it, government representatives are responsible for their actions and must adopt exemplary conduct in their activities. Considering civil society’s legitimate high demands, the QLP endeavours to present documents containing clear and precise information on the professional practices and activities of its ministers and, more generally, of its parliamentarians. By holding its members accountable in this way, the Liberal Party hopes to return state impartiality to the heart of political and administrative life.
Our desire to fight against conflicts of interest is matched by our determination to reinforce the culture of productivity in public management. It is therefore our responsibility to ensure that public funds are used appropriately and efficiently in order to restore citizens’ confidence in their institutions. A strong state not only protects its citizens by reforming its public services and social welfare; it also holds itself to a high standard and looks out for the common good by remaining self-critical of its practices.
Questions and answers
A: Here are a few Liberal achievements in matters of ethics and governance:
- The Municipal Ethics and Good Conduct Act [of December 2010]
- The Code of Ethics and Conduct of the Members of the National Assembly
- The Act to put a stop to election contributions in the name of another (December 2010)
- The adoption in 2013 of the Code of Ethics and Conduct of the Quebec Liberal Party, which makes the Party the first—and still the only—party to have taken on such regulations
- The adoption in Fall 2014 of a series of initiatives to make public the schedules and expenses of ministers and public bodies.
- The adoption in June 2016 of the Act to give effect to the Charbonneau Commission recommendations on political financing.
A: To say that the Liberal Party’s code of ethics isn’t followed is false.
Since the establishment of the QLP Code of Ethics and Conduct, not a single accusation has been brought against those who are subject to it. The Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec, for their part, cannot say the same, since they’ve faced accusations of diverting public funds for partisan purposes.
A: It is impossible to believe the Parti Québécois with respect to its own ethical exemplariness considering the events of the last few years. Among the recent accusations made against the Parti Québécois, we only cite a few:
- Pauline Marois’ clientist promises during an electoral campaign;
- The “deal” connecting Michel Arsenault, ex-president of the FTQ, with Claude Blanchet, Pauline Marois’ husband, who had the mission of convincing her not to demand a commission to investigate the attribution of public contracts in the construction industry;
- The fraud under the Act to govern the financing of political parties revealed by the Moisan Inquiry;
- The use of public funds for partisan purposes.
A: You can be the judge of that yourself. The CAQ is accused of:
- Have used public funds for partisan purposes, just like the PQ;
- Having stolen documents from the Parti Québécois;
- Having provided donor lists with irregularities;
- Using signatures collected for petitions that could not be submitted to the National; Assembly, in order to create solicitation lists stuffed with personal information on the signees, and without the party’s confidentiality policy on their website mentioning it clearly (without informed consent).