Against Bill 19: The city’s electors are entitled to fair representation

Text signed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and
published in Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec.

October 25, 2011

Against Bill 19:
The city’s electors are entitled to fair representation

As the National Assembly considers voting on Bill 19, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal is reiterating its opposition of the institutionalization of the city’s underrepresentation in Quebec politics. We are asking all elected officials to vote against Bill 19 in order to respect the Greater Montréal region and its electors, and thereby avoid establishing a dangerous precedent for our democratic system.

The metropolitan region represents over 50% of the population of Quebec. Yet it has only 54 of the 125 electoral districts, or 42% of them. This is unacceptable and disrespectful to the city’s citizens and taxpayers. Bill 19 does nothing to remedy this situation and instead proposes maintaining the number of electoral districts in the regions with no consideration for the number of electors who live there, which would only weaken the fair representation of the city.

The reasonable and fair solution is to create three new electoral districts in the metropolitan region, where population growth has taken place, and to eliminate three districts where the number of inhabitants does not justify their existence.

Bill 19 simply proposes adding three new districts to the 125 existing ones. We need to remember that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has 107 elected officials for a population 50% larger than that of Quebec. Quebec has sufficient parliamentary representation. Redrawing the electoral map should not involve the addition of new electoral districts, but rather redistribution based on expert analysis that takes into account the demographic evolution of Quebec. Historically, the island of Montréal has already lost electoral districts to reflect population movements; why flout this new rule now?

The debate on the redrawing of the electoral map leads to an oft-repeated acknowledgement: the government is poorly responsive to the city’s needs. If it was to come into effect, Bill 19 would not only constitute a true denial of electoral justice, it would also raise important legal questions.

As part of its initiatives on this matter, the Board of Trade sought the opinion of Stéphane Beaulac, a constitutional law expert and professor at Universitéì de Montréal’s faculty of law. The professor explained that the reform projects on the table would constitute “violations of the constitutional guarantees of democratic rights.”

It is not the regions but the electors that have a right to representation in the National Assembly. Electors in the metropolitan region are full citizens of Quebec, and their electoral weight must reflect this reality. A vote in Montréal, in Longueuil, in Laval, or in Sainte-Thérèse should carry the same democratic weight as a vote in the regions.

We assume that all the members from the Montréal area, no matter their party, will care about defending the electors’ right to fair democratic representation. It’s their duty!

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