Quebec's proposed electoral reforms would give regions more power

Under the proposed reforms, the Outaouais, Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec regions would each get an additional seat in the National Assembly, while the island of Montreal would lose three.

Hearings begin for CAQ's plan to introduce proportional representation at National Assembly

Sonia LeBel, Quebec's minister responsible for electoral reform, took part in hearings Wednesday into Bill 39. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

The Coalition Avenir Québec government is seeking to overhaul the way Quebecers choose their elected officials with a system of mixed proportional representation that would give rural areas more clout. 

Under the proposed reforms, the Outaouais, Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec regions would each get an additional seat in the National Assembly, while the island of Montreal would lose three, going from 27 to 24 seats.

There would still be 125 MNAs in the legislature. Of them, 80 would represent ridings, elected by majority vote. The remaining 40 MNAs would be chosen from regional lists. Voters would have to cast two ballots.

Hearings into the CAQ's proposed legislation, Bill 39, began Wednesday in Quebec City.

Sonia LeBel, the CAQ minister responsible for electoral reform, said the proposal attempts to strike a balance.

"It's to make sure that everybody is well represented," she said.

"Ultimately, this is not Montreal against the rest of Quebec. It's to make sure that we have more accurate representations of all the thoughts and philosophies at the [National Assembly]."

Bill 39 also requires voters to approve the plan in a referendum likely to coincide with the next provincial election, set for 2022.

QS wants more done for gender parity

Both Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois have hinted they will support the bill, but they want to see some changes first.

On Wednesday, QS unveiled two proposed amendments that would dramatically strengthen the gender parity provisions in the bill.

The party wants the names on regional party lists to alternate between those of male and female candidates, to ensure gender parity.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Québec Solidaire's house leader, wants the law to include strong gender parity provisions." (Sylvain Roussel/CBC)

QS also wants parties to lose 10 per cent of their public funding if they fail to meet gender parity quotas and receive a 20 per cent boost if they exceed them.

The party's house leader, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, said the electoral reform bill represents a unique opportunity for the province to address the longstanding issue of under-representation of women in politics. 

"We can't let this opportunity slip through our fingers," he said. 

The CAQ promised in the last election campaign to reform the electoral system and introduce proportional representation.

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 before their first term to make changes but walked away from the commitment.


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