The Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) was founded in 1994 by parting members of the Québec Liberal Party. It formed the Official Opposition at the province’s National Assembly between March 2007 and September 2008. It merged with Coalition Avenir Québec, a new political party, in February 2012.
After the Charlottetown Accord was rejected on 26 October 1992, Mario Dumont, leader of the Young Liberals of Québec, and Jean Allaire, a member of the executive committee of the Québec Liberal Party, left the party. Its members had decided not to defend a platform proposition — the Allaire Report — which proposed to amend the Canadian Constitution and claim 22 areas of exclusive jurisdiction on behalf of Québec.
Parting Québec Liberal members initially formed Le Groupe Réflexion Québec, followed in December 1993 by Action Québec. The Action démocratique du Québec was founded the following year and voted Mario Dumont its leader. At 23 years old, Dumont was the youngest party leader in Québec. The ADQ presented its first electoral platform on 5 and 6 March 1994, when 612 delegates from all Québec regions adopted the Plan national de redressement (National Recovery Plan). The Plan included 20 proposals to improve the economy and stabilize government finances.
In the September 1994 elections, Mario Dumont won the ADQ’s only seat (Rivière-du-Loup). Still, the party won nearly 10 per cent of Québec votes despite the fact that it did not present candidates in all ridings.
Québec Referendum and the Question of Sovereignty
In June 1995, Mario Dumont, Lucien Bouchard, then leader of the Bloc Québécois, and Premier Jacques Parizeau of the Parti Québécois, signed an agreement uniting their parties behind the Yes coalition in advance of the referendum on Québec sovereignty (see Québec Referendum 1995). After the referendum was defeated, the ADQ redefined its position as “autonomist,” requesting more autonomy for Québec within the Canadian federation.
In the provincial election of 30 November 1998, Dumont was the only ADQ member elected. However, the party increased its overall support by about 500,000 votes. With 15 per cent of the vote, the ADQ fought for the issue of proportional representation in the National Assembly. With its large youth membership, the party also focussed on matters important to young voters, such as self-employment and discriminatory clauses (orphan clauses). It also proposed a 10-year moratorium on sovereignty referenda (see separatism). Since its creation, the party has sought to occupy a space on the political spectrum between the Liberals and the Parti Québécois.
From Official Opposition to dissolution
In the election of 26 March 2007, the ADQ won a record 41 seats in the National Assembly. The Parti Québécois, led by André Boisclair won 36. For the first time since 1878, Québec had a minority government formed by the Liberals under Jean Charest (with 48 seats). Vote-splitting allowed the ADQ to sneak between the two major parties and become the Official Opposition. During the election campaign, the ADQ focused on the issue of reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural practices. The issue was particularly explosive, falling shortly afterthe appointment by Premier Jean Charest of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission (see Québec Values Charter).
ADQ members who entered the National Assembly in fall 2007 lacked political experience. It was soon apparent that the party also lacked a consistent and cohesive voice. In the election of 8 December 2008, the ADQ fell from 41 seats to seven, which triggered Dumont’s resignation and the ADQ’s first leadership race since the party was founded. Gilles Taillon was elected leader on 18 October 2009, a decision that precipitated leadership contender Eric Caire, and Marc Picard’s departure from caucus. Taillon quickly resigned and was replaced by Gérard Deltell on 19 November.
Between 2009 and 2012, the Action démocratique du Québec was represented by four members in the National Assembly. In 2011, a new party, the Coalition Avenir Québec, led by former Parti Québécois minister François Legault, further damaged the ADQ’s position. After months of discussions, the ADQ decided to merge with the new party — a decision overwhelmingly approved by party membership vote in January 2012. In the 4 September 2012 election, the Coalition Avenir Québec won 19 seats, including five former members of the ADQ.