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Quebec Liberal Party

Quebec Liberal Party
Parti libéral du Québec
  • PLQ
  • QLP
LeaderMarc Tanguay (interim)
PresidentRafael Primeau Ferraro
FoundedJuly 1, 1867; 156 years ago (July 1, 1867)
Membership (2023)15,000–20,000[1][2]
Political position
National affiliationLiberal Party of Canada (until 1955)
Colours    Red and Blue
Seats in the National Assembly
19 / 125

The Quebec Liberal Party (QLP; French: Parti libéral du Québec, PLQ) is a provincial political party in Quebec. It has been independent of the federal Liberal Party of Canada since 1955.[6][7][8] The QLP has always been associated with the colour red; each of their main opponents in different eras have been generally associated with the colour blue.[9]

The QLP has traditionally supported a form of Quebec federalist ideology with nuanced Canadian nationalist tones that supports Quebec remaining within the Canadian federation, while also supporting reforms that would allow substantial autonomism in Quebec. In the context of federal Canadian politics,[10] it is a more centrist party when compared to Conservative and Liberal parties in other provinces, such as the former British Columbia Liberal Party.[11]



The Liberal Party is descended from the Parti canadien (or Parti Patriote), who supported the 1837 Lower Canada Rebellion, and 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 refused to commute the death sentence of 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.

Members of Félix-Gabriel Marchand's government of 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, 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.[citation needed]


Under Jean Lesage, the party won an historic election victory 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. During this time a social-democratic faction within the party was especially prominent.[12] Under the slogans C'est l'temps qu'ça change (it's time for change) in 1960 and maîtres chez nous (masters in our own house) in 1962, the Quebec government undertook several major initiatives, including:

  • Full nationalization of the electricity industry through merger of 11 private companies with the government-owned Hydro-Québec — this major initiative of the government was led by the minister of natural resources, René Lévesque, in 1963.
  • Creation of a public pension plan, the Régie des rentes du Québec (QPP/RRQ), separate from the Canada Pension Plan that exists in all other provinces of Canada, and creation of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ).
  • Elimination of tuition fees for public elementary & secondary schools and creation of the Ministère de l'éducation du Québec.
  • Secularisation of schools and hospitals.
  • Creation of the Société générale de financement (SGF).
  • Creation of the first incarnation of the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF, originally OLF).
  • Mandatory call for bids for all public works contracts above $25,000 (René Lévesque, 1960).
  • Creation of Obligations d'épargne du Québec (Québec savings bonds) in 1963.
  • Right to strike in public service (1964).
  • Creation of an office in Paris, introduction of the Gérin-Lajoie doctrine (meaning that Québec has rights to its own international presence matching its domestic range of jurisdiction).
Statue of Jean Lesage in front of the Parliament Building

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.[13][14]

In October 1967, former cabinet minister René Lévesque proposed that the party endorse his plan for sovereignty-association. The proposal was rejected and, as a result, some Liberals, including Lévesque, left the Liberals to join the sovereignty movement, participating in the founding of the Parti Québécois (PQ) under Lévesque's leadership.[14]

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 Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

First elected in 1970, Robert Bourassa instituted Bill 22 to introduce French as the official language in Quebec, and pushed 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 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 Accord and Charlottetown Accord. 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.


Around the time of the 1998 Quebec general election, the party was referred to as being on the centre-right of the political spectrum.[5]

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. 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.[15] 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-after 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.[16]

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.[17]

They came back into power during the 2014 election under Philippe Couillard.[18] In the 2018 election, they became the official opposition.[19]

The contemporary Quebec Liberal Party is a broad-based federalist and multiculturalist coalition including among its members some supporters of the federal Liberals, New Democratic Party, Bloc Québécois, Greens, and Conservatives. In terms of voter support, it has always been able to rely on the great majority of non-Francophone people in Quebec, in other words, the great majority of Anglophones and Allophones.[20]


The Quebec Liberal Party has faced various opposing parties in its history. Its main opposition from the time of the 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 and very recently with the Coalition Avenir Québec, a Quebec autonomist and conservative party.

Party leaders

General election results

Election Leader No. of candidates No. of seats won Change +/- Standing % of popular vote Legislative role Government
1867 Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière 40
12 / 65
Increase 12 Increase 2nd 35.4% Official Opposition Conservative majority
1871 38
19 / 65
Increase 2 Steady 2nd 39.4% Official Opposition Conservative majority
1875 46
19 / 65
Steady Steady 2nd 38.8% Official Opposition Conservative majority
1878 59
31 / 65
Increase 12 Increase 1st 47.5% Minority Government Liberal minority
1881 46
14 / 65
Decrease 17 Decrease 2nd 39.0% Official Opposition Conservative majority
1886 Honoré Mercier 49
33 / 65
Increase 19 Increase 1st 39.5% Majority Government Conservatives attempted to continue as a minority government for three months until they resigned and were replaced by a narrow Liberal majority.
1890 68
43 / 73
Increase 10 Steady 1st 44.5% Majority Government Initial Liberal Majority, became a minority due to defections and then replaced by Conservatives after the Liberal Premier was dismissed by the Lieutenant-Governor.
1892 Félix-Gabriel Marchand 62
21 / 73
Decrease 22 Decrease 2nd 43.7% Official Opposition Conservative majority
1897 78
51 / 74
Increase 30 Increase 1st 53.3% Majority Government Liberal majority
1900 Simon-Napoléon Parent 77
67 / 74
Increase 16 Steady 1st 53.1% Majority Government Liberal majority
1904 87
68 / 74
Increase 1 Steady 1st 55.5% Majority Government Liberal majority
1908 Lomer Gouin 76
57 / 74
Decrease 11 Steady 1st 54.2% Majority Government Liberal majority
1912 83
62 / 81
Increase 5 Steady 1st 53.5% Majority Government Liberal majority
1916 85
75 / 81
Increase 13 Steady 1st 64.0% Majority Government Liberal majority
1919 99
74 / 81
Decrease 1 Steady 1st 65.4% Majority Government Liberal majority
1923 Louis-Alexandre Taschereau 92
63 / 85
Decrease 11 Steady 1st 52.9% Majority Government Liberal majority
1927 86
74 / 85
Increase 9 Steady 1st 60.3% Majority Government Liberal majority
1931 90
79 / 90
Increase 5 Steady 1st 54.9% Majority Government Liberal majority
1935 91
48 / 89
Decrease 31 Steady 1st 46.8% Majority Government Liberal majority
1936 Adélard Godbout 89
14 / 90
Decrease 34 Decrease 2nd 40.0% Official Opposition Union Nationale majority
1939 87
70 / 86
Increase 56 Increase 1st 54.1% Majority Government Liberal majority
1944 91
37 / 91
Decrease 21 Decrease 2nd 39.4% Official Opposition Union Nationale majority
1948 93
8 / 92
Decrease 29 Steady 2nd 36.2% Official Opposition Union Nationale majority
1952 Georges-Émile Lapalme 92
23 / 92
Increase 15 Steady 2nd 45.8% Official Opposition Union Nationale majority
1956 93
20 / 93
Decrease 3 Steady 2nd 44.9% Official Opposition Union Nationale majority
1960 Jean Lesage 95
51 / 95
Increase 31 Increase 1st 51.3% Majority Government Liberal majority
1962 97
63 / 95
Increase 12 Steady 1st 56.40% Majority Government Liberal majority
1966 108
50 / 108
Decrease 13 Decrease 2nd 47.29% Official Opposition Union Nationale majority
1970 Robert Bourassa 108
72 / 108
Increase 22 Increase 1st 45.40% Majority Government Liberal majority
1973 110
102 / 110
Increase 30 Steady 1st 54.65% Majority Government Liberal majority
1976 110
26 / 110
Decrease 76 Decrease 2nd 33.77% Official Opposition Parti Québécois majority
1981 Claude Ryan 122
42 / 122
Increase 16 Steady 2nd 46.07% Official Opposition Parti Québécois majority
1985 Robert Bourassa 122
99 / 122
Increase 57 Increase 1st 55.99% Majority Government Liberal majority
1989 125
92 / 125
Decrease 7 Steady 1st 49.95% Majority Government Liberal majority
1994 Daniel Johnson Jr. 125
47 / 125
Decrease 48 Decrease 2nd 44.40% Official Opposition Parti Québécois majority
1998 Jean Charest 125
48 / 125
Increase 1 Steady 2nd 43.55% Official Opposition Parti Québécois majority
2003 125
76 / 125
Increase 28 Increase 1st 45.99% Majority Government Liberal majority
2007 125
48 / 125
Decrease 28 Steady 1st 33.07% Minority Government Liberal minority
2008 125
66 / 125
Increase 18 Steady 1st 42.06% Majority Government Liberal majority
2012 125
50 / 125
Decrease 16 Decrease 2nd 31.20% Official Opposition Parti Québécois minority
2014 Philippe Couillard 125
70 / 125
Increase 20 Increase 1st 41.50% Majority Government Liberal majority
2018 125
31 / 125
Decrease 39 Decrease 2nd 24.82% Official Opposition Coalition Avenir Québec majority
2022 Dominique Anglade 125
21 / 125
Decrease 7 Steady 2nd 14.4% Official Opposition Coalition Avenir Québec majority

See also


  1. ^ "Les nouveaux partisans du Parti conservateur du Québec" (in Canadian French). 3 May 2022. Retrieved 9 August 2023.
  2. ^ Pilon-Larose, Hugo (15 October 2023). "L'élection d'un nouveau chef en 2025 divise les libéraux" [The election of a new leader in 2025 divides the Liberals]. La Presse (in Canadian French).
  3. ^ Lampert, Allison (1 October 2018). "Quebec holds election that may shift province to the right". Reuters. Retrieved 12 August 2022. Recent opinion polls have shown Quebec's ruling Liberals, a centrist party, running neck-and-neck against the center-right Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) of former business executive Francois Legault, which has never held power.
  4. ^ Demers, Bálint (10 October 2022). "Les trois erreurs de Québec solidaire" [Québec solidaire's three mistakes]. Le Vent Se Lève (in Canadian French).
  5. ^ a b Durand, Claire; Blais, André; Vachon, Sébastien (2001). "Review: A Late Campaign Swing or a Failure of the Polls? The Case of the 1998 Quebec Election". The Public Opinion Quarterly. 65 (1). Oxford University Press: 108–123. doi:10.1086/320041. JSTOR 3078789. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  6. ^ James Farney; David Rayside (12 November 2013). Conservatism in Canada. University of Toronto Press. p. 317. ISBN 978-1-4426-1456-7.
  7. ^ Ricard Zapata-Barrero (2009). Immigration and Self-government of Minority Nations. Peter Lang. p. 70. ISBN 978-90-5201-547-7.
  8. ^ Nicola McEwen (1 January 2006). Nationalism and the State: Welfare and Identity in Scotland and Quebec. Peter Lang. p. 166. ISBN 978-90-5201-240-7.
  9. ^ Harrow, Rodney; Klassen, Thomas (1 January 2006). Partisanship, Globalization, and Canadian Labour Market Policy: Four Provinces in Comparative Perspective. University of Toronto Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-8020-9090-4.
  10. ^ Haddow and Klassen 2006 Partisanship, Globalization, and Canadian Labour Market Policy. University of Toronto Press.
  11. ^ Arsenault, Gabriel; Jacques, Olivier; Maioni, Antonia (24 April 2018). "Specific political and social conditions set Quebec on the path to becoming a leader in child care. What's kept the other provinces from following suit?". Policy Options. Institute for Research on Public Policy.
  12. ^ Linteanau, Paul André. Quebec Since 1930: A History. 521 pp.
  13. ^ "The Montreal Gazette". Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  14. ^ a b Stevenson, Garth (1999). Community Besieged: The Anglophone Minority and the Politics of Quebec. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 79. ISBN 9780773518391. quebec anglophone ridings.
  15. ^ Gazette, The (2007-09-18). "Liberals' identity crisis". Archived from the original on 2012-11-06. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  16. ^ jane taber (2011-03-02). "Brad Wall, Kathy Dunderdale top premiers in popularity rating". Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  17. ^ "Canadian flag removed from Quebec National Assembly". CTVNews. 2012-09-17. Retrieved 2021-10-18.
  18. ^ "Couillard's election mandate — to be anything but the PQ: Michelle Gagnon | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  19. ^ "All the ways in which the Quebec election made history". National Post. 2018-10-02. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  20. ^ "Firing of aides won't save Charest for long". The Gazette. 2007-09-08. Archived from the original on 2012-11-06. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
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Quebec Liberal Party
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