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Parti Québécois loses bid to take down Maple Leaf from Quebec’s national assembly

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois responds to Opposition questions on the placement of construction labour Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at the legislature in Quebec City.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Canadian flag will remain on display in the legislative chambers known as the Red Room of the Quebec National Assembly, much to the displeasure of the Parti Québécois government.

A motion by the PQ to have the Maple Leaf permanently removed during National Assembly committee hearings was soundly defeated.

The Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Quebec banded together and voted 65 to 53 against the PQ minority government's efforts to remove the Maple Leaf.

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The Liberals and the CAQ refused the PQ's demand to debate the issue. When the motion was recently presented by the PQ member of the National Assembly Yves-François Blanchet, the opposition parties argued that the flag issue was not a priority for Quebeckers.

Nonetheless, the issue created some discomfort within the CAQ which includes a certain number of pro-sovereignty members within its ranks.

"We are a coalition of sovereignists and federalists with federalists who strongly believe in Canada. And this is certainly not a priority. Everyone agrees that with the issues of corruption, poor management of public funds and economic problems that this is not the time be concerned about the flag," Mr. Legault said.

Mr. Blanchet, who was sworn-in on Tuesday as the new Environment Minister was disappointed that he could not replace the Maple Leaf with the Quebec flag. But he seemed satisfied that although his motion was defeated it served to show the true political allegiance of the CAQ.

"Why are the Liberals and even more so the Coalition ashamed to explain their positions? I hope the voters in their ridings watched them stand-up and vote a position that is ultra-federalist. The Quebec flag is not a sovereignist symbol. It is the symbol of all Quebeckers." Mr. Blanchet said.

The PQ argued that as a nation the only flag that should be displayed in the two chambers of the National Assembly should be the Quebec flag, the Fleur-de-lis. During partisan events or official ceremonies such as the swearing-in of ministers that are held in the sumptuous Red Room, the PQ has always had the Canadian flag removed.

The Canadian flag has never been a permanent fixture in the so-called Bleu Room that houses the assembly for debates such Question period. The Maple Leaf was introduced by the Liberals in the Red Room in the 1980's then removed by the PQ in the 1990's and refitted again next to the Quebec Flag when the Liberals returned to power in 2003.

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Without a majority government and despite the support of the two members of Quebec Solidaire, the PQ had no choice but to bow to the will of those who continue to argue the need for a Canadian symbol in the National Assembly.

"We now have this setback, imposed on the Quebec National Assembly which restricts it from displaying its own flag," Mr. Blanchet said, calling it a "dark" and "shameful" gesture. "I believe we can show that we have more pride than that."

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About the Author
Quebec City political correspondent

Rhéal Séguin is a journalist and political scientist. Born and educated in southern Ontario, he completed his undergraduate degree in political science at York University and a master's degree in political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.Rhéal has practised journalism since 1978, first with Radio-Canada in radio and television and then with CBC Radio. More

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