Several Quebec legislature members missed votes in recent years, data shows

Several Quebec legislature members missed votes in recent years, data shows

MONTREAL — While voting on bills and motions is among the primary functions of a provincial legislature member, about 20 elected Quebecers have missed several votes since 2014, according to data compiled by The Canadian Press.

Without minimizing the other duties of elected representatives, attendance during votes is “fundamental” to a legislature member’s duties and is enshrined in their code of ethics, says Universite Laval political scientist Eric Montigny.

The numbers do not take into account all the functions of elected representatives, including their presence in question period, participation in legislature committees and their work outside the national assembly.

Since being sworn in as Quebec’s premier in 2014, Philippe Couillard has been present for 71 per cent of the votes on bills at the legislature — slightly less than his predecessor, Pauline Marois, who was there 76 per cent of the time.

That compares with Jean Charest’s 89 per cent attendance record between 2009 and 2012.

Couillard’s absence may possibly be explained by his numerous foreign trips. For example, he missed three votes last November during a trip to Morocco. A few days later, he was also absent while travelling to Paris.

“The premier is present in the national assembly, as he is in all the regions of Quebec and internationally, to promote what our workers, entrepreneurs and workers do daily,” said Couillard’s spokesman, Harold Fortin.

Attendance was lower for the left-wing Quebec solidaire, whose three elected members must take on extra duties.

Amir Khadir, who is well-known for his involvement in numerous causes, was present for less than 65 per cent of votes — a number that doesn’t reflect his true commitment, according to a party staffer.

“The MNAs from other parties generally participate in a single (legislature) commission and are critics of only one file,” Elise Tanguay said in an email.

“That isn’t the case for our members who are each critics for about 10 files and participate in several commissions.”

Khadir, she added, is often asked to present the party’s positions outside Quebec, including on a recent trip to Belgium to discuss Canada’s free-trade deal with Europe, and another to Mexico to discuss NAFTA.

Manon Masse, one of the party’s two official spokespeople, has been present for about 82 per cent of the votes since 2014.

The Canadian Press data shows Bloc Quebecois Leader Martine Ouellet, who has decided to remain an Independent member of the national assembly as she handles her federal duties, has missed 11 of 42 votes in Quebec City since taking the Bloc’s top job in March.

Her assistant, Nathaly Dufour, confirmed Ouellet’s role with the Bloc caused her to leave Quebec twice: once for the federal budget, and once for a recent emergency Bloc caucus meeting.

Ouellet’s overall attendance stands at 70 per cent since 2014 — a period in which she participated in two Parti Quebecois leadership races and took time off after knee surgery and to take care of her ailing father.

Overall, the data shows members of Quebec’s Liberal party are the most present for votes, with a participation rate of 89.2 per cent.

Montigny says provincial legislature members have an enormous workload, with many putting in more than 80 hours a week.

“There’s a lack of understanding about the amount of work it entails being a (legislature member), and the limits it imposes on personal life,” he said.

Vicky Fragasso-Marquis, Dominique Degre and Mick Cote, The Canadian Press

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