Montreal

CAQ government wants to hold a referendum over electoral reform plan

The CAQ introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at creating a system of mixed proportional representation, and it requires voters to approve the plan in a referendum to coincide with the next election, set for 2022.

Proportional representation was a key electoral promise last year

Quebec Premier François Legault wants to hold a referendum in 2022 over its electoral reform proposal. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

The Coalition Avenir Québec government wants to hold a referendum — but not about sovereignty. 

The CAQ introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at creating a system of mixed proportional representation, and it requires voters to approve the plan in a referendum to coincide with the next election, set for 2022.

The bill, entitled, "An Act to establish a new electoral system," lays out a system whereby 80 seats in the province's 125-seat National Assembly would be assigned to ridings.

The remaining 45 seats would be divided based on the number of votes obtained by each party and attributed to a specific region. 

Electors would be entitled to make two votes — one for each type of seat.

The goal of the legislation, as outlined in its preamble, is to "more faithfully reflect the plurality and relative weight of the political opinions" in Quebec.

The CAQ had promised in the last election to make changes to the electoral system in its first mandate. 

The commitment was welcomed by many advocates and opposition politicians. But they questioned the decision to hold a referendum before putting it into effect.

Quebec Premier François Legault said Wednesday the reforms were more complicated than expected. 

"What I'm telling Quebecers is I'll give them three years to understand the proposal," he said in Quebec City.

"We'll let them decide in 2022 if they want to change the actual system."

Françoise David, a longtime MNA with Québec Solidaire, who has been pushing for electoral reform as the co-chair of Mouvement démocratie nouvelle, said having an electoral reform referendum and an electoral campaign simultaneously will create confusion for voters. 

"The question of electoral system is completely another question. It's impossible to do the two in the same time," she said.

Françoise David, a longtime MNA with Québec Solidaire, who has been pushing for electoral reform as the co-chair of Mouvement démocratie nouvelle. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Liberal MNA Marwah Rizqy said the CAQ should have tabled the bill sooner. The delay means nothing will change before the next election.

"We're still going to vote in the exact same way," she said.

If the proposal goes through, Quebec would become the first province to adopt a system of mixed proportional representation.

Other provinces, including British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, have tried to introduce electoral reform. In both cases, voters opted against the proposal in referendums.

The federal Liberals under Justin Trudeau also promised to make changes during the last election campaign, but walked away from the commitment.

With files from Cathy Senay

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