The speaker of the Quebec national assembly has ruled that the new Coalition Avenir Québec does not qualify for official party status.
Jacques Chagnon's ruling came as the national assembly returned from its winter recess Tuesday.
Chagnon said the rules of the national assembly clearly state that to qualify as an official party, that party must win 12 seats in a general election or win 20 per cent of the popular vote.
The Coalition Avenir Québec meets neither prerequisite.
The CAQ – centred around leader and former Parti Québécois cabinet minister François Legault – has grown from zero to nine MNAs since the end of the fall session. Three MNAs defected from the Parti Québécois, and six ADQ members switched over to the CAQ as their party merged with Legault's.
Legault looks for silver lining
Charest's priority: Plan Nord
As the national assembly resumes this week, Quebec Premier Jean Charest's government is set to quickly pass several pieces of legislation.
The provincial Liberals are expected to pass bills promoting the Plan Nord, and they say they're prepared to override opposition protests against at least one of the bills.
The opposition PQ says Bill 14 doesn't increase the royalties the province would receive from mineral development in Quebec's northern territory.
After more than 250 hours of debate in committee hearings, little progress has been made on the legislation.
"If there's opposition, or if there is a systematic blocking, there are tools that exist for that," said Serge Simard, Quebec's Minister for Natural Resources.
The government could use its majority to force the bill into law.
Opposition critic Martine Ouellet said there's a reason the legislation is being stalled.
"All Quebecers will lose. We will lose money, we will lose (processing jobs), and we will lose on the environmental side too," said Ouellet.
"We won't be able to do as much as we would like to do at the National Assembly," said a disappointed Legault.
But in the run-up to what political pundits say will likely be a spring election campaign, he chose to look on the bright side.
"It will give us time to be in all the regions in Quebec to meet with the population," Legault added.
Members of the national assembly made an exception for l'Action Démocratique du Québec three years ago, voting to give the ADQ official party status, despite the fact it won only seven seats in the 2008 election.
With that came hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for research and additional staff and the right to ask a certain number of questions of the government during question period.
Opposition MNAs back ruling
But the speaker said that was a tailor-made decision, based on a concensus among all parties. This time, Jean Charest's Liberal government refused to back the Coalition's request, as did Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois.
"I remind you that not one of these MNAs was elected under the banner of the 'caquistes,'" Marois said.
The national assembly's lone Québec Solidaire MNA, Amir Khadir, also supported the speaker's ruling.
"These nine members of the CAQ didn't stand before the public and have a mandate given by the public," Khadir said.