Quebec’s national assembly hall, known as the Salon bleu, will be extensively renovated with seating reconfigured into a “horseshoe” shape.
The plans were announced Thursday by the Bureau de l’Assemblée nationale (BAN), consisting of elected representatives from the Coalition Avenir Québec government, the Quebec Liberal Party and Québec solidaire. The Parti québécois does not have enough members to sit on the BAN.
The current seating arrangement in the Salon bleu is inherited from the British parliamentary tradition. It places the government and the “loyal opposition” face to face.
In 2020, the government House leader, Simon Jolin-Barrette, said he would like to see a “new layout to improve the working climate.”
The assembly’s former president, François Paradis, suggested taking advantage of the renovation work to rearrange the chairs in the hemicycle, like in France, but the idea was quickly dismissed by his successor Nathalie Roy.
“Let’s get down to business: the Salon bleu is rectangular; a hemicycle is round,” she said in a March interview with The Canadian Press.
“I think that if we want to keep all our seats, the majority of seats, they’ll still face each other, and then we’ll maybe round off the corners, but there won’t be any catastrophic change,” she added .
And so, the chosen layout is that of the “horseshoe,” the BAN announced in a Thursday press release.
“The new seating arrangement will allow for the retention of heritage desks, integrating the heritage clerks’ table designed in 1886 by Eugène-Étienne Taché, free up space for the addition of four more seats to the current 125, while ensuring universal access,” it reads.
Renovation work on the Salon Bleu, described as a “priority,” will begin in the fall of 2024. The allocated budget and duration of the work were not shared.
The work will involve “the renovation of architectural and heritage elements, updating the hall’s technological and technical components (ventilation, lighting, cabling, etc.) and adding new furniture elements featuring fine materials.”
While the work is underway, desks, chairs and the president’s chair will be moved to the Salon Rouge where debates will be held, including a question period.
Some desks will be replaced, but ‘”The aim of the project is to ensure respect for the unique heritage of the hall, to allow it to evolve harmoniously, while meeting the current needs of parliamentarians.”
Some members’ desks are 135 years old.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 9, 2023.