The current voting system
The voting system presently in use in Québec and Canada is called first-past-the-post, or the British voting system. This voting system ensures that each voter may vote only once, in their riding, and only for one person. The person elected is the one who received the most votes, but not necessarily a majority of all the votes cast (in other words, receiving 50% +1 vote). Even if the winner leads by only one vote, this is the person who will represent their riding at the National Assembly.
The weight of an individual’s vote can vary according to the party one supports, as well as where one lives. The reason for this inequality is that, during a general election, there are in effect 125 elections taking place in as many ridings. Within each riding, all that is needed is to receive one vote more than one’s opponent, in order to win the seat and represent the riding. The political party that wins the greatest number of ridings forms the government, irrespective of how many individual votes they won province-wide.
The characteristics and effects of this type of voting system have been observed all over the world.
Why change this voting system?
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The current system results in significant variations between the popular vote and the actual composition of the National Assembly. Out of 41 Québec elections, none has resulted in a National Assembly that is a realistic reflection of the votes cast. On five occasions, an election brought a party to power when it had received less votes than the party which ended up forming the opposition. These distortions of the popular vote are not chance happenings; our current voting system systematically warps the outcome of a vote.
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Representation by riding makes a third party needs to have all of its supporters to live in the same riding in order to be able to elect a candidate. This system is designed to limit competition between two major parties, which makes them alternate between power and opposition. The political reality in Quebec has recently changed: sometimes a tiny percentage is enough to win a seat since the fight is between three or four parties. Thus, the plurality electoral system prevents political parties from getting their rightful place in the National Assembly, a place corresponding to the support they receive from the population.
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At each election, regions are represented exclusively or almost exclusively by a single party, even though the vote has been diversified. For example, since 2018, the Laurentians region has been represented by a single political party, while the latter is supported only by a minority of the electorate. In some ridings, such as Ungava, Gaspé and Bourget, electoral battles are so hot that a very small difference in votes is enough to win. Finally, some regions are under-represented in governments. This is the case in particular for the Gaspé Peninsula, which, in 19 years, will have had only one elected official from the region as a minister, and this, for barely a year and a half.
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The population of Quebec is 50% female. However, until 2018, women held less than 30% of the seats in the National Assembly. This inequality must no longer be tolerated in the 21st century. For the first time in Quebec’s history, we reach the “parity zone” in 2018, when 53 women are elected (42.4% of the deputation). International experience shows that it is possible to introduce measures to achieve and consolidate equality of representation and that it is easy to implement these measures with a proportional vote, using parity lists, for example.
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In Quebec, the reform of the voting system has been called for for more than 50 years. All parties have already taken a position at some point in their history in favour of reform. All the conclusions of the many popular consultations, general assemblies, parliamentary committees and even an opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec converge in favour of this reform.
If the historical consensus of political parties is to hold to its conclusion, the population must get involved and demand that their elected representatives act.
On May 9, 2018, four of the five main political parties in Quebec publicly announced the introduction by October 2019 of a bill to reform our voting system for a regional compensatory mixed member proportional model. A draft bill introduced by the government of the Quebec Liberal Party in 2004 also supported this approach.