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Odds are against PQ’s bid to banish Canadian flag from National Assembly

The Canadian Flag flies over the Peacekeeping memorial in Ottawa Tuesday May 29, 2012. Tuesday marks the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

An attempt to remove the Canadian flag from the Quebec legislature appears poised for defeat in an impending vote laden with emotional symbolism.

The provincial assembly has decided that a vote next week will settle an unprecedented situation – one where a minority Parti Québécois government, one that does not control of the legislature, tries to have the flag removed.

And the PQ may not have the numbers to take down the Maple Leaf.

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The pro-Canadian Official Opposition, the Liberals, will vote against the request. And it appears that the constitutionally neutral Coalition Avenir Québecis also lined up against the government.

CAQ Leader François Legault says that his party, an alliance of federalists and separatists, favours the status quo and will vote against the PQ request.

"Why change the balance?" Mr. Legault said Wednesday. "We have a balance and there's a consensus in favour of it within the Coalition."

The two big opposition parties have 69 seats, combined. They need 63 votes to have a majority in the legislature and win next week's vote – meaning the PQ attempt would fail unless more than one-third of the Coalition's 19 MNAs sided with it.

The issue is playing out under a unique political backdrop: A new PQ government has been elected and promises to work toward independence, while polls suggest its cause is relatively unpopular, with barely half the support it had in its early 1990s heyday.

The Maple Leaf has, in the past, had a place in the legislature building only when the Liberals were in office. It was added to the committee chamber by Robert Bourassa's Liberals in the 1980s and '90s, and again by Jean Charest's government in 2003.

As it has in the past, the PQ moved to take it down after it won the Sept. 4 election. But the attempt prompted a rare backlash and, with only a minority status, the PQ was forced by the legislature Speaker to hold a vote to decide the issue.

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