Quebec City, November 3, 2009 – Québec’s Chief Electoral Officer, Marcel Blanchet, held a press conference earlier today to announce a citizens’ jury on political party financing, which will take place in January. The mandate for this activity has been entrusted to the Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM). The process is intended to fuel the debate on the financing of Quebec’s provincial and municipal political parties.
Although the need for an examination of public financing has been in the headlines recently, the Chief Electoral Officer’s plans actually date back several months. Last winter, the Chief Electoral Officer asked the Institut du Nouveau Monde to propose an approach tailored to both the subject and the situation. “The citizens’ jury model has been tested in Europe and the United States, and the INM has convinced us that it is the best format to provide information specifically on corporate financing for political parties,” said Marcel Blanchet.
The process initiated by the Chief Electoral Officer will provide some preliminary information for Claude Béchard, Minister responsible for the Reform of Democratic Institutions, who recently announced his intention to table legislation and hold public consultations on the question of political financing next winter. However, the plans announced today by the Chief Electoral Officer will not replace these public consultations.
“I feel it is important to resume the debate surrounding political financing in Quebec, while allegations continue to circulate that the current system is easy to circumvent and is in fact widely circumvented,” said Mr. Blanchet. “The subject of political financing regularly makes the front page, where it is linked with other issues such as the awarding of contracts.”
The Chief Electoral Officer is seeking input from citizens on the following question:
Should political party financing be open to contributions from corporations or other groups: yes or no?
If so, under what conditions?
If not, should the existing rules be changed?
Three major steps of the citizens’ jury
1. Call for applications
Next week, 3,400 citizens from Québec’s 17 administrative regions will receive invitations by mail to apply to become jurors. In addition to being eligible to vote in Québec and being able to speak French, candidates will have to produce a letter of interest and complete a registration form. The Institut du Nouveau Monde will then select the names of twelve jurors and two substitute jurors from the pool of eligible candidates. A number of criteria will be used to ensure that the final jury reflects Québec society in terms of regional representation as well as male/female and socio-professional balance. It will also include members of ethnocultural minorities, First Nations and the Inuit community.
2. Expert witness hearings open to the public
Hearings will be held at the Musée national des Beaux-arts du Québec on January 16 and 17, 2010. To help in rendering its verdict, the jury will hear a dozen witnesses, including experts on the subject, political financing stakeholders and observers able to provide an external point of view. They will all be invited to present their opinions, and the jurors will have an opportunity to ask questions. The public is invited to attend these hearings and may register at www.inm.qc.ca
or by phone at 1-877-934-5999.
3. Deliberations and verdict
The jurors will meet for a second time on January 30 and 31, to prepare a verdict that will be sent to the Chief Electoral Officer and then made public.
November 3, 2009: Announcement of process and launch of call for applications
November 30, 2009: End of application period
December 14, 2009: Selection of jurors and announcement of hearing schedule
January 15, 2010: Preparatory day for jurors
January 16 and 17, 2010: Hearings at the Musée national des Beaux-arts du Québec
January 30 and 31, 2010: Jury deliberations and verdict