There was a lot of confusion Wednesday at Quebec’s National Assembly over whether MNAs are allowed to financially assist Canada Day activities.
This is because all MNAs have a discretionary budget they can use towards community events in their ridings.
The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government recently changed the criteria for that fund.
MNAs are allowed to dip into a discretionary fund called the Programme soutien à l’action bénévole to offer small amounts of money to offset the cost of community events, like annual Canada Day celebrations.
They have a total of about $100,000 to work with every year.
According to the rules laid out in a ministry document, the subsidy should not give an MNA — or his or her riding office — a personal advantage.
The document lists the following examples:
- tickets for a fundraising dinner;
- registration for conferences;
- participation in a golf tournament;
- a request promoting Canada;
- a request promoting the separation of Quebec;
- promotional fundraising activities.
A government spokesperson said the intention was to make the rules more clear after some MNAs asked for clarification.
However, some MNAs say they interpreted the rules as that funds cannot be used to “promote Canada,” which would mean they can no longer contribute to Canada Day festivities in their community.
“It just created a lot of uncertainty among ourselves saying, ‘Why can we not fund things that we traditionally have?’ I don’t think Canada Day is a political event. It’s a time for people to get together, family BBQ’s and community events,” said Liberal MNA Greg Kelley.
Wednesday morning, Premier François Legault set the record straight.
“I want to be very clear,” he said. “Of course, on July 1, we’ll continue to give financial help to all kinds of parties and activities all around Quebec. What we don’t want to get into is the promotion of federalism or the sovereignty of Quebec.”
Kelley said MNAs can be subject to an audit by the National Assembly and so the rules need to be clear so they know exactly what they can and cannot do.