Greek community expresses 'disbelief' over changes to Quebec electoral map
'They've basically split the Greek community straight down the middle,' community leader says
As Laval's Greek community joins the growing list of groups opposed to the province's redrawn electoral map, a local newspaper publisher is threatening legal action over the changes.
"We were in utter disbelief," said Pelagia Adamidis, interim executive director of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal.
The Hellenic vote has historically been concentrated within Laval's Chomedey riding. With boundary redistribution, the area west of the Le Boutillier Park bike path and between du Souvenir Road and Saint-Martin Boulevard West will now belong in the riding of Fabre.
"They've basically split the Greek community straight down the middle," said Adamidis. The fear is that by dividing the community's vote between two ridings, their political voice will become diluted, she said.
"They had an obligation, under the (Elections Act), to take into account and respect all the elements that tie in cultural communities, especially the Hellenic community," she said.
Redrawn map a 'slap in the face': Suburban editor
In response to the criticism that the new electoral boundaries divide established communities, Beryl Wajsman, editor-in-chief of the English-language weekly newspaper The Suburban, is hoping to mount legal action.
Since Sunday, people have pledged more than $6,500 towards the legal costs.
"How do you take away an assembly voice for the anglophone and allophone community?" asked Wajsman. "It makes no sense. It's past making no sense. It's a slap in the face."
Wajsman said he doesn't understand the logic of the commission's decision to preserve Sainte-Marie–Saint-Jacques, a riding that had been slated for abolition, while not taking into account established communities in other ridings.
Québec Solidaire's Manon Massé and her constituents argued that merging her riding with downtown Montreal would drown out the voice of the city's most disadvantaged residents and the LGBT community.
"The commission clearly reacted to political pressure. And appropriate political and community pressure. I use that in the most positive way," Wajsman said.
The electoral representation commission "decided to sacrifice an anglophone, allophone riding," he concluded.
Jewish vote split as well
"There's a huge mass of voters who are totally upset," said Sharon Freedman.
The Côte Saint-Luc resident attended the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough meeting Monday, where the borough council passed an emergency motion opposing the merger of the Mont-Royal and Outremont ridings.
The fusion of the two electoral districts means the Jewish community living east of Hutchison Street will now vote in the Mercier riding.
"Our voices have to be heard, and we have to be properly represented at the provincial level of our government," said resident Ellie Israel.
Redrawing ridings a 'balancing act'
A spokesperson for Quebec's chief electoral officer emphasizes that the commission on electoral representation is non-partisan and independent.
Alexandra Reny said redrawing the boundaries is a "balancing act."
"It's very complicated," she said.
Commission members take into account "natural communities" in the area but also other factors, including geography (highways, interchanges and Mount Royal, for example), population growth and socioeconomics.
She said the exercise is so complicated for a densely populated city such as Montreal or the city of Laval that moving one street from one riding to another or keeping one street in a riding instead of moving it can put a riding in an "exceptional situation."
The Elections Act says a riding should not have a number of electors that is more than 25 per cent above or below the provincial average.
According to the act, the commission "may, for exceptional reasons, depart [from that rule].... Every such decision shall be in writing and give reasons."
There are seven ridings in an "exceptional situation." All are rural and have more than 25 per cent fewer electors than the provincial average.
"We know we can't get to a consensus, but we try to find the best solution possible," Reny said.