Quebec City, January 22, 2020 – MDN President Jean-Pierre Charbonneau and Vice-President Françoise David today submitted the organization’s brief to the Commission on Institutions of the Quebec National Assembly, which is studying the draft Act 39, The Act establishing a new electoral system. At the outset, MDN representatives emphasized the historic nature of this exercise. This is the first time that elected officials have considered a bill to change the voting system. “We understand the importance of the work of the Minister responsible for Democratic Institutions and Electoral Reform, Sonia Lebel, in the wake of the cross-party agreement we initiated in 2016 and which led to the commitment to electoral reform in 2018 by three of the four parties represented here in this room, the Coalition Avenir Québec, Quebec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois,” recalled the MDN president.

The MDN urges parliamentarians not to forget why such a bill was introduced. “Bill 39 aims to correct an unfair and “democratically infectious” system, as René Lévesque described it,” said Jean-Pierre Charbonneau. Harmful elements of the current system include:

  • Parties very often elect more MPs than they should have had based on the votes cast;
  • Parties have very often elect fewer MPs than they should have had;
  • Parties have often found themselves without an MP despite significant electoral support;
  • A majority of votes cast are never taken into account in the formation of governments.

“The people of Quebec deserve better than the old electoral system imposed in 1792,” said the MDN president. And, their political representatives today must remember that the electoral system belongs to the people and not to them, not to their party.”

A bill to be improved

In its submission, MDN recalls the principles adopted in the 2016 trans-partisan Agreement that should guide the government: to reflect as much as possible the popular vote of all Quebecers, to respect the political weight of the regions and to ensure better representation of women and ethnocultural diversity in the National Assembly.

Respect for the popular vote

“The proportionality proposed in the bill is largely insufficient,” noted Françoise David. As the bill stands, Quebec would have one of the least representative mixed proportional systems in the world. This is unacceptable. One of the elements that accentuates this disproportionality is the fact mentioned in article 156 that the calculation of compensation seats will be made by halving the number of constituencies obtained by the parties. This does not exist in any mixed compensatory system, MDN notes in its submission. MDN’s insists that the calculation of compensation in each region be made taking into account all local ridings won.

Respect for the political weight of regions and pluralism of ideas

The MDN submission states that, in the current bill, citizens’ sense of belonging to their region and the pluralism of ideas are not sufficiently respected.

MDN Proposals :

  • that a threshold of 3% of the popular vote be introduced for access to parliamentary representation.
  • That a minimum of two compensation deputies per electoral region be introduced, either by reducing the number of regions to 14 or by increasing the number of MPs to 129 if the 17 proposed regions are maintained.

Representation of women and ethnocultural diversity

In our view, the measures proposed in the bill to achieve parity and improve diversity are insufficient and will not achieve the desired results.

We propose :

  • that in each list for compensatory seats gender alternation be mandatory, with women at the top of the list in half of the cases. If a party proposes a list that does not meet this criterion, the DGE will ask it to resubmit.
  • that each party be required to present at least 45% women overall as local constituency candidates. A party that does not comply with this rule will see its funding reduced while parties that respect the rule will see their public funding increase.

“The government has made a major historic move in introducing this bill. We call on Prime Minister Legault to rise to the occasion by holding his referendum, if he holds to it, a few months before the general election, out of respect for the voters and in accordance with the justification for this fundamental and complex choice! We also ask him to commit himself to his role on the steering committee of the “yes” camp, fully assuming his historic decision to change the electoral system and putting all his political weight in the balance,” concluded Françoise David.

(In french)

Présentation du MDN devant la commission parlementaire sur le PL39

Période de questions faisant suite à la présentation du MDN
devant la commission parlementaire sur le PL39