Changes that are far from unanimous

Changes that are far from unanimous


The National Assembly plans to arrange the seats on which the elected officials sit in the Blue Room in a semicircle, the QMI Agency has learned. A modification that is far from unanimous.

The idea had been raised a few times since 2019, in particular by the President of the National Assembly, François Paradis. < /p>

But for the first time, official documents show how the place where Quebec MPs sit could be transformed.

In a call for tenders for architectural services launched in July, the National Assembly presents two possible configurations of the Blue Room, which will undergo extensive renovations by 2026.

It is planned to hemicycle” of 134 seats or a “horseshoe” of 138 seats.

The current parliament can accommodate 125 deputies, seated on either side of the president or facing him.

The instructions given by the National Assembly to bidding architectural firms show plans in a semi-circle.

“Exchange Optimization”

“The current configuration and furnishings […] allow no room for maneuver in terms of a possible increase in the number of deputies, while upward demographic changes are foreseeable”, reads the program of the needs that we we consulted.

This new configuration aims to “foster a culture of collaboration between MEPs” and is “focused on optimizing exchanges”, continues the document.

Despite what it writes in its estimates, the National Assembly assures us that the layout of the seats in the new Blue Room has not yet been determined.

“Considering the shape and dimensions of the Salle de l National Assembly, different configuration scenarios remain possible,” spokeswoman Béatrice Zacharie said by email.

According to our information, the layout of the seats in a semicircle is the subject of intense debate among the deputies.

“There have been a lot of discussions, and there is no unanimity at all, regardless of the party,” a person very familiar with the matter told us.

Even if “everyone s 'agree on the need to refresh the Blue Room', the prospect of closing it for 18 months while the work is being done and changing the seating arrangement is raising debates, added this source.

Long works planned

In fact, according to the National Assembly's preliminary schedule, the renovation work on the Blue Room will take place from August 2024 to January 2026. During this period, the desks, chairs and President's throne will have to be moved in the Salon rouge, which will host the debates, including the famous question period. 

François Paradis was the first to raise the possibility of changing the layout of the seats in the Salon bleu. An idea taken up by Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette in his parliamentary reform project, presented in June 2021.

Not to be taken lightly

Changing the layout of the seats in the Blue Room would be a “major change” for Quebec democracy, judges a political scientist who calls for caution in decision-making.

“The Blue Room has a symbolic value strong for the Quebec nation. We must respect this tradition and evolve in a very very gradual way. A parliament is not trivial”, believes Éric Montigny, professor of political science at Laval University.

“It is not something that should pass like a letter in the post” , he adds.

The National Assembly has already made choices in the past that relegated its British heritage to the background, such as the evacuation of certain monarchical symbols, notes the political scientist. Nevertheless, the adoption of the hemicycle would have a strong symbolic significance, judge Mr. Montigny.

The debating chamber of the Scottish parliament, whose seats are arranged in a semi-circle, gives an idea of ​​what could look like the new Blue Salon.

The parliaments of France, Scotland, Manitoba and the United States, among others, have half-moon layouts.

Larger capacity

Of course, the adoption of the hemicycle would open the door to certain possibilities, in particular that of better representing all the parliamentary groups, which are increasingly numerous.

“If changing the layout of the seats makes it possible to increase the number of them, then that could be a very good thing,” judge Marc André Bodet, professor of political science at Laval University.

According to different studies, the larger the size of an assembly, the more representative it is of the popular vote, he says. This is without taking into account the impact that a hemicycle would have on the representation of parties in the media. “From the television point of view, the official opposition is weakened, to the advantage of the other parties, which are no longer in the background, near the door,” notes the political science expert.

< p>As for the impact that the hemicycle could have on the spirit of collaboration between the deputies, the two political scientists do not believe in it.

“This is an argument that is raised regularly, but I don't know of any studies that will support this theory,” says Éric Montigny. 

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