Man's house straddles 2 boroughs, but he can only vote once

André Laniel, a West Islander whose house sits on the dividing line between two boroughs, is trying to persuade Quebec's chief electoral officer that he should be allowed to vote for the mayor and councillors in each of them.

'I go to sleep in Pierrefonds, and I eat in Sainte-Geneviève,' says André Laniel

André Laniel's house straddles two Montreal boroughs. He pays taxes in both, but he's only allowed to vote in one. (Steve Rukavina)

André Laniel, a West Islander whose house sits on the dividing line between two boroughs, is trying to persuade Quebec's chief electoral officer that he should be allowed to vote twice — for the mayor and councillors in each borough.

Half of Laniel's house is in the L'Île-Bizard—Sainte-Geneviève borough. 

The other half is in Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

"I live in both places. I go to bed at night in Pierrefonds, but I eat breakfast in Sainte-Geneviève — all in the same house," Laniel told CBC News with a laugh.

2 tax bills, 1 vote

Laniel gets two property tax bills every year, one from each borough, although they arrive in the same envelope.

He leaves his trash and recycling bins for pickup on the driveway at the back of his house, in Sainte-Geneviève.  His water intake pipe is also on that part of the property.
This blueprint shows the border between the two boroughs cutting a diagonal swath through Laniel's house. (Steve Rukavina)

But his front door is in Pierrefonds, and so, according to Quebec's law on municipal elections and referendums, he can only vote for councillors and the borough mayor there.

Laniel said it's not fair.

"I think it would be only logical that I vote twice, because I'm a citizen of each borough," Laniel said.

"It seems to me normal that I vote for those who might have an influence on the services I'm provided," he said.

Voted in both places before mergers

It wasn't always this way.

Before the municipal mergers of 2002, Laniel's house was situated not in two boroughs, but in two different municipalities. Back then, he was able to vote for mayor and council in each municipality.

But it doesn't work that way if your house straddles two boroughs within the same municipality.
André Laniel's water intake pipe is in Sainte-Geneviève, and that's where he leaves his trash bins for collection. But his front door is in Pierrefonds. (Steve Rukavina)

Alexandra Reny, a spokesperson for Quebec's chief electoral officer, told CBC News the law is very clear.

"In no case may the name of a person appear more than once on the list of electors in a municipality," Reny said.

Even though Laniel pays two tax bills, the money all goes to the same municipality — the City of Montreal.

Reny said the only way to make an exception would be to change the law.

Inspired by cheeky TV ad

Laniel isn't giving up. In all the elections since 2002, he's tried to make the case with local election officials. 

This time, he's written directly to Quebec Chief Electoral Officer Pierre Reid, asking him if anything can be done.

He was inspired partly by a TV ad from the chief electoral officer, encouraging people to vote on Nov. 5.

The ad shows a child going down a slide in a playground.

"Fewer than half of voters in municipal elections vote," the voice-over says.

The ad then shows the bottom half of the slide disappear as the child is sliding down, and the child falls to the ground.

The voice-over continues: "Imagine if your municipality did things by halves, too."

"I think the slogan for this year goes well with my situation," Laniel said, noting that he feels like he only has half a vote.

He's waiting to hear back from Reid. He says if he doesn't get a favourable response, he'll write to his MNA to see what might be done to change the law.

He acknowledged it's likely too late for this year's municipal election, but he's lived in that house his entire life, and he's prepared to wait.

About the Author

Steve Rukavina

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.