QUEBEC – The Canadian flag was removed from its spot inside the Quebec legislature as members of the pro-independence Parti Quebecois took the oath of office Monday.
The removal of the Maple Leaf was part of a longstanding see-saw ritual: it had been long absent in the legislature but was restored nine years ago when Jean Charest’s Liberals took office and placed it next to the Quebec flag at the Speaker’s chair in the building’s ceremonial chamber.
It was gone again Monday as the PQ’s 54-member, minority-government caucus took the oath of office in the ornate old upper chamber, known as the Red Room, where the Quebec Fleur-de-lis was once again standing alone.
The PQ officially takes office Wednesday, when premier-designate Pauline Marois will introduce her cabinet.
While the Canadian flag was gone, for the Parti Quebecois, there was still no escaping the Queen.
Every member of the PQ caucus swore an oath to the monarch, which is a prerequisite for taking office in Canada. This after the party had complained during the campaign about the increased presence of the Crown under the Harper Conservatives.
But there were no sarcastic expressions, sighs, rolled eyeballs or any other visible form of protest when members stood, one at a time, to swear the oath.
One newly elected Pequiste, 20-year-old Leo Bureau-Blouin, had offered only the mildest protest on his Twitter account. He posted that part of the oath on his Twitter feed and included his own two-word complaint: “Good grief.”
After the event, another newly elected Pequiste conceded that swearing an oath to the Crown wasn’t exactly a thrill for a Quebec independentist.
“That (reference to the Queen) wasn’t the most interesting moment,” Pierre Duchesne said.
But Duchesne, who before the election was the Quebec City bureau chief for the French-language CBC, explained why the ceremony occurred without any gripes. He said it was important to show, “respect for certain institutions.”
The PQ was elected two weeks ago with a minority mandate. It now holds a four-seat advantage in the legislature after winning the popular vote by less than one percentage point.
Marois welcomed her new team with a speech.
She suggested that the election of a PQ government would help restore Quebecers’ pride.
“When a people rediscovers its pride and its confidence nothing, absolutely nothing, becomes impossible for it,” Marois said during a festive ceremony in the chamber.
She promised to lead a government of “unimpeachable integrity,” following a scandal-plagued term that saw her predecessors call a corruption inquiry that is now underway.