The Office of MNA
The members of a Legislature are elected by universal suffrage to represent their fellow citizens. In Québec, they sit in the National Assembly and are called “Members of the National Assembly”, “MNAs”, “Members of Parliament” or “parliamentarians”.
The MNAs are chosen at election time by the voters in their respective electoral divisions. An electoral division (or “riding”) is a community established on the basis of geographical, demographic and sociological criteria. Each electoral division is represented by one MNA.
The people of Québec are represented in the Assembly by 125 MNAs elected in as many ridings. That’s why we call our democracy “representative”.
Who Can Be an MNA
In Québec, under the Election Act anyone wishing to run for office as an MNA must
- be a Canadian citizen
- be 18 years of age or over
- have been a Québec resident for at least six months
- not be under curatorship or deprived of his or her election rights
The people who elect the MNAs, i.e. the voters, must satisfy the same requirements and must also be on the permanent list of electors.
A candidate may run for a political party or as an independent, without any affiliation to a political party.
To hold office as an MNA, candidates must be elected in
- a general election, held in all of Québec’s electoral divisions (ridings) on the same day
- a by-election held in an electoral division after an MNA’s resignation or death or under a court decision
Multiple by-elections may be held on the same day.
Once an election has been called, aspiring candidates must come forward before the time limit set in the Election Act by filing a nomination paper with the returning officer in the electoral division where they wish to run. The nomination paper must be signed by 100 voters registered on the list of electors for that electoral division.
- If only one candidate comes forward, he or she is automatically elected by acclamation.
- If two or more candidates come forward, an election is held and the candidate with the most votes becomes the MNA for that electoral division.
During the election period, the candidates campaign in their electoral divisions so that voters will know who they are and what their political platform is.
In Québec, on polling day, MNAs are elected under a first-past-the-post system characterized by
- a majority vote: the candidate who attracts the most votes wins, regardless of the number of votes that went to his or her opponents, and need not have garnered 50% of the votes cast
- a single member: one candidate only is elected in each of the 125 electoral divisions
- a single ballot: each voter votes once only, which means that the results of the poll are known within a short period of time
Under the Constitution, a Legislature—the MNAs’ collective term—can be no longer than five years.
For more on running for office as MNA, on the electoral system, on voting or on election funding rules, visit the Chief Electoral Officer’s website.
Oath of Office
After the election, the candidates who were elected must be sworn in by the Secretary General of the Assembly before they can take their seat in the Assembly. They take two oaths:
- an oath of allegiance to the Crown:
“I, (name of the MNA), do swear [solemnly declare] that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.”
- an oath of loyalty to the people of Québec:
“I, (name of the MNA), declare under oath that I will be loyal to the people of Québec and that I will perform the duties of Member honestly and justly in conformity with the constitution of Québec.”
Role of MNAs
As representatives of the people, MNAs have three main roles:
MNAs also sometimes act as the Assembly’s ambassadors when on a mission outside Québec as part of the Assembly’s interparliamentary relations. Such missions provide them with opportunities to discuss current issues with other parliamentarians, raise the Assembly’s profile and promote Québec’s interests.
In the Assembly and in parliamentary committee, some MNAs also act as House officers.
MNAs as Legislators
The foremost role of an MNA consists in considering bills and voting them into law. This is done in a number of stages in the Assembly and in parliamentary committee.
More on the stages in the consideration of a bill
MNAs as Overseers of Government Action
MNAs also act as overseers of government action. The means by which they do so are varied.
MNAs as Intermediaries
MNAs represent the people in their respective ridings and so, when not sitting in the National Assembly, they are at their riding offices, meeting with the people who come to them with requests for access to a government program, for example, or the amendment of a law or regulation, or with a complaint against a department or body of the Québec government (the Administration).
MNAs act as intermediaries between their constituents and the Administration. They make sure their communities get their fair share of public programs, be it in the area of health care, education, employment assistance or in another area.
An MNA may present a petition to the Assembly on behalf of a group, asking the Assembly to redress a situation that is affecting an individual or association and that the group considers unfair.
MNAs also promote regional development. They expose the needs of their ridings to the ministers and public servants responsible for allocating the State’s funds and defend the interests of their ridings in debates in the House, during consideration of the Government’s estimates of expenditure or at meetings with ministers or public servants.
Services Offered to MNAs by the Assembly
Assembly personnel offer four types of services to MNAs:
Support During Proceedings
The Secretary General, with the help of a team of specialists in parliamentary law, sees to the preparation of the sittings, of the Order Paper and Notices and of the Votes and Proceedings of the Assembly. He or she also advises MNAs on parliamentary procedure, especially when the Chair hands down a ruling.
Also, each parliamentary committee has a clerk whose role is to assist the committee chair and vice-chair, both of whom are MNAs.
Private Members may call on the services of Assembly personnel to prepare private bills and private Member’s bills.
Documentation and Research
Through the Assembly Library (page in French), MNAs have access to a comprehensive body of documentation, both in print and electronic format, particularly in the fields of law and political science.
Assembly personnel also carry out research and produce analytical studies on issues of concern to the MNAs and the parliamentary committees.
At the beginning of each Legislature, the Office of the Assembly determines, by regulation, the amounts to be allotted to each political party for research services.
Support During Representation Abroad
The Assembly belongs to a number of international interparliamentary organizations and maintains bilateral relations with several parliaments. A team of advisers assists the President and the MNAs in this area, in addition to planning, organizing and managing the protocolar and logistic aspects of official missions and visits.
Technological and Administrative Support
A range of administrative services is in place to ensure that parliamentary proceedings run smoothly. In light of the particular support MNAs need in their work and the autonomy of Parliament, the Assembly has set up its own security, messenger, restaurant, printing and property management services.
The Assembly provides MNAs with offices in the Parliament Building and with the equipment and supplies they need to do their work. Each MNA is also assigned a seat in the House by the President.
The Assembly also advises MNAs on the procurement of computer hardware and software and on computer security in their Parliament Building and riding offices.
Remuneration and Allowances
The regular remuneration of an MNA consists in
MNAs are also entitled to allowances to cover
- expenses incurred in the exercise of their functions
- expenses incurred for travel between their ridings and the Parliament Building or to participate in political activities in Québec
- accommodation expenses in Québec City
MNAs are also granted a budget for their riding work. This budget covers the rental of office space, administrative expenses and staff payroll.
More on indemnities and allowances
Incompatible Offices and Conflicts of Interest
The Code of ethics and conduct of the Members of the National Assembly (PDF, 1 Mb) sets out the rules governing offices or posts incompatible with the office of MNA and includes provisions on conflicts of interest that could arise during a Member’s term of office.
An MNA may not
- sit on a municipal council or school board
- hold an employment, a position or a post to which remuneration or a benefit in lieu of remuneration is attached if it is held with
- the Québec government or one of its departments or a public body
- the federal government, the government of another province or of a territory, or a department or an agency of such a government, except the regular Armed Forces or the Reserve
- a foreign country
- an international non-profit organization.
The President of the National Assembly may not hold the post of director or officer of a legal person, partnership or association engaged in professional, commercial, industrial or financial activities.
MNAs must avoid putting themselves in situations where their private interests may impair independence of judgment in carrying out their duties of office. Nor may they use information not generally available to the public or influence another person’s decision in order to further their own interests, those of a non-dependent child or other close family member or any other person.
The Code also states that, subject to certain exceptions, a Member may not be a party, directly or indirectly, to a contract with the Government or a government department or public body.
For more on the rules governing incompatible offices or posts and conflicts of interest, visit the Ethics Commissioner’s site.