ELECTORAL REFORM : MUST WE DEMONSTRATE OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY TO ENSURE THE PREMIER KEEPS HIS ELECTION PROMISE?

MONTREAL, March 21, 2021 – Will Premier Legault keep his promise to reform the electoral system in Quebec or will he give in to the fears that some of his caucus members may lose their seats by backing down like Justin Trudeau did at the federal level in 2017?

The Coalition for Electoral Reform Now! calls on the government to clearly and publicly announce its intentions on voting reform in Quebec. Member organizations of the Coalition are ready to demonstrate before the National Assembly in the coming weeks if Premier François Legault or his Minister responsible for the file, Ms. Sonia LeBel, continue to drag their feet regarding the legislative process.

The legislative process has stalled since principle of the bill was passed with the second reading on October 8, 2020. According to the Coalition, there is no justification for such inaction of over five months. If the government intends to respect the deadlines it has set for itself, parliamentarians now have less than three months for the detailed study and adoption of a bill comprising 227 articles and upwards of 160 amendments.

For Sonia Ethier, President of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and spokesperson for the Coalition, “with the introduction of Bill 39 in September 2019, the government has come a long way. But it must finish the job and keep its word. Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer (DGEQ) has reminded us that the bill must be adopted, at the latest, by June 2021, failing which, he believes he will be unable to complete preparations for a referendum scheduled by the government to be held at the same time as the October 2022 general election. This calls for the government to launch the detailed study of Bill 39 without delay, a crucial last step before its final passage.”

She adds that “the pandemic that afflicts us cannot be used as an excuse for government inaction. Truth be told, the pandemic has not prevented the government from advancing several reforms are not directly related to the health crisis. Mr. Legault must show some political courage. It would be a great shame to miss this historic window, which could close for years to come, further fuelling the cynicism of the population towards elected officials.”

Noémie Veilleux, President of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), highlights that “since the government is formally committed to reforming the voting system, students expect nothing less from François Legault than an end to the status quo. The student population wants to feel that their voice counts. They want Quebec to be governed by a representative assembly that reflects our society. Time is running out, and the government must respect its commitments before it’s too late.”

Lise Courteau, President of the Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (Afeas) argues that “As Quebec recovers from the current crisis – something that could take several years – women and men alike deserve to have their voices heard to express their aspirations and proposed solutions. Bill 39 provides an opportunity to enshrine gender parity into the electoral law, respecting a notion about which there is now considerable social consensus in Quebec. Missing this historic opportunity could undermine progress on women’s issues.” She adds that “after the unanimous adoption of a motion by the National Assembly on Wednesday March 17 demanding that the government initiate the detailed study of Bill 39, we find it difficult to imagine how the government could possibly justify further inaction. All parties present at the National Assembly, including the CAQ, voted in favour!”

The objectives of the Coalition for Electoral Reform Now! are to promote a vast popular movement for electoral reform in Quebec, to inform and raise awareness of the issues at stake, and to force the government to keep its promises and strengthen democracy in Quebec. The Coalition brings together more than eighty organizations and networks from all sectors of civil society throughout Quebec, representing more than 2.1 million active members in over 12,000 organizations.

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Translated by Fair vote Canada