Quebec's chief election officer denies referendum planning

Jacques Drouin, the head of Quebec's elections office, said comments made by his spokesman that referendum planning will start if the PQ wins a majority were incorrect and "regrettable."

Jacques Drouin says public consulation law needs 'significant update' before any referendum vote

Jacques Drouin, Quebec's chief elections officer, says referendum planning wouldn't be immediately triggered by a PQ majority win. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec’s chief electoral officer is denying that plans for a referendum will be set in motion if a majority Parti Québécois government is elected on the April 7.

Jacques Drouin issued a statement this morning apologizing to Quebec voters for remarks made by his spokesman, Denis Dion, in an article printed in this morning’s edition of Le Soleil.

“It was never in the plans of the DGE in any way to prepare for a referendum in the foreseeable future or according to any specific deadline,” the statement reads.

Dion is quoted in the Quebec City newspaper this morning as saying, “You can be sure of one thing – if the Parti Québécois is elected to a majority, we’ll start [planning],” he said vote. “It’s clear, clear, clear that there will be plans because it’s an immense exercise.”

The chief electoral officer, or DGE, is an independent body that reports to the national assembly and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the democratic process in Quebec.

The DGE starts planning for an election long before it is called and has been prepared for the current campaign for months.

A referendum vote would require significant lead time in the planning process, a point that Dion emphasizes in his remarks to Le Soleil.

However, in the statement released this morning, Drouin says the result of the April 7 vote isn’t enough to push that planning machine into action.

He points out that Quebec's public consultation legislation would need "significant updates" before any future referendum could go forward.