Proposed Boundaries – Quebec


Part I – Introduction

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Quebec (the Commission) was established by proclamation, dated February 21, 2012, and published on March 14, 2012, in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, Chapter E-3 (the Act). The Commission consists of:

Chair: Hon. Jules Allard, S.J.C.
Member: Dr. Raymond Hudon, Ph.D.
Member: Mr. J. Michel Doyon, Q.C., Ad.E., Ph.D.

Voting is the defining action by which citizens express their views within a democratic system. In light of apparent lack of interest, shown particularly in declining voter turnout in elections, it is especially important to ensure that the wishes of citizens who vote are properly reflected. The way a territory is divided into electoral districts must be based on respect for citizens' preferences; for this reason, electoral boundaries are readjusted every 10 years according to the most recent census data.

The readjustment, which is carried out on a province-wide basis, is grounded initially in the Act itself. The legislation defines two main guidelines for the decision making of a provincial electoral boundary commission: first, it should seek the best possible balance in the size of the different electoral districts; and second, it should respect communities of interest so as not to unduly lessen their role.

Section 15 of the Act states the following:

  • 15. (1) In preparing its report, each commission for a province shall, subject to subsection (2), be governed by the following rules:
    • (a) the division of the province into electoral districts and the description of the boundaries thereof shall proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district in the province as a result thereof shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province, that is to say, the quotient obtained by dividing the population of the province as ascertained by the census by the number of members of the House of Commons to be assigned to the province as calculated by the Chief Electoral Officer under subsection 14(1); and
    • (b) the commission shall consider the following in determining reasonable electoral district boundaries:
      • (i) the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, and
      • (ii) a manageable geographic size for electoral districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.
    • (2) The commission may depart from the application of the rule set out in paragraph (1)(a) in any case where the commission considers it necessary or desirable to depart therefrom
      • (a) in order to respect the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, or
      • (b) in order to maintain a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province,
      but, in departing from the application of the rule set out in paragraph (1)(a), the commission shall make every effort to ensure that, except in circumstances viewed by the commission as being extraordinary, the population of each electoral district in the province remains within twenty-five percent more or twenty-five percent less of the electoral quota for the province.

In its work, the Commission is also required to apply the thrust of the official languages policy in an informed manner.

In presenting the outcome of its deliberations, the Commission wishes to assure citizens of its intent to do justice to the exercise of the people's sovereignty, while maintaining awareness of the important role played by elected officials and the low regard in which they are held in our societies today. We hope that the fruits of our labours will properly reflect those intentions.

First of all, our work is primarily statistical in nature and requires an understanding of the context; this can be obtained by briefly referring to the report produced in 2003 by the Commission of that time (see Table 1). We find that none of the 75 readjusted electoral districts in 2003 had a positive variance equal to or in excess of 10%, the greatest being 9.51%. However, 6 electoral districts had a negative variance equal to or in excess of –10%, the greatest being –20.19%. In addition, 16 electoral districts had a positive or negative variance below 2% of the established quota of 96,500 residents per electoral district. The remaining 53 electoral districts had positive or negative variances of between 2% and 9.99%, and more than two thirds of these variances were positive.

Table 1

2003 breakdown of the 75 electoral districts, by variance
2003 Report
Quota: 96,500
Variance Number of districts
≥ +10%
between 5% and 9.99% 19
between 2% and 4.99% 17
between 1.99% and –1.99% 16
between –2% and –4.99% 8
between –5% and –9.99% 9
≤ –10% 6
Total 75

Greatest variances:

This was the starting point for the current Commission's work. Two changes had arisen since 2003, however. The first was a natural change, revealed by the 2011 Census data. The second change was political in nature; it involved the addition of 3 electoral districts within Quebec's territory. The redistribution therefore had to be carried out within 78 electoral districts, on the basis of a new quota of 101,321 residents in each. To fully explain the scope of our task, we think it is helpful to describe the two steps we undertook to assess the scope of the Commission's mandate.

First of all, we were curious to see what our starting point would have been if, without the addition of 3 districts, we divided the demographic data resulting from the 2011 Census, that is, a population of 7,903,001. By dividing that population into 75 electoral districts, we obtained a theoretical quota of 105,373 residents in each existing district before redistribution. By breaking down the measured variances on that basis, we arrived at the result presented in Table 2.

Table 2

2012 breakdown of electoral districts, by variance
(before redistribution)
Quota: 105,373 (for 75 electoral districts)
Variance Number of districts
≥ 25% 2
between 15% and 24.99% 5
between 10% and 14.99% 4
between 2% and 9.99% 19
between 1.99% and –1.99% 14
between –2% and –9.99% 21
between –10% and –14.99% 3
between –15% and –24.99% 5
≤ –25% 2
Total 75

Greatest variances:

Proceeding in this manner, we found that the maximum variance of 25% allowed by the Act – positive or negative – from the established quota would have been exceeded in 4 districts, and the greatest variances would have been 36.79% and –32.25%. In addition to those 4 cases, 9 districts would have had a positive variance exceeding 10%, while 8 districts would have had a negative variance exceeding –10%. That would have left 54 districts with positive or negative variances under 10%; in 14 of these, the variance would have been under 2%.

Table 3

2012 breakdown of electoral districts, by variance
(before redistribution)
Quota: 101,321 (for 75 electoral districts)
Variance Number of districts
≥ 25% 4
between 15% and 24.99% 7
between 10% and 14.99% 7
between 2% and 9.99% 26
between 1.99% and –1.99% 12
between –2% and –9.99% 12
between –10% and –14.99% 1
between –15% and –24.99% 5
≤ –25% 1
Total 75

Greatest variances:

However, the addition of 3 electoral districts appreciably changed the overall picture. We first calculated the variances on the basis of the established quota of 101,321 residents per electoral district. We performed this calculation using the map of 75 electoral districts in place before we began our work. Some might say the exercise was artificial because in reality, the 2012 redistribution had to be conducted using an electoral map that now had 78 electoral districts. However, this allowed us to project more specifically the nature and scope of the work to be done. We thus noted that the number of mandatory corrections had increased: 5 districts had variances of over 25%, 4 of them positive; this indicated a problem of under-representation. The measured variances were larger, ranging from –29.54% to +42.26%. We thus found that no fewer than 44 districts had a positive variance over 2% in relation to the established quota based on the 2011 Census. We might have thought it would be easy to redistribute those variances with the addition of 3 districts, but such a conclusion did not take into account the fact that, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details!

Adding an electoral district in a given region creates a domino effect that might entail major or minor changes to the boundaries of a substantial number of other districts. We also had to bear in mind the objective of achieving a demographic balance between all electoral districts. In addition, we tried to respect the "boundaries" of the perceived communities of interest to the best of our knowledge. Accordingly, wherever it seemed reasonably possible to do so, we mapped the limits of the new districts by making them correspond to other existing limits: regional county municipalities (RMCs), municipalities, boroughs, etc. To complement that "strategy," we selected other objective boundaries – either natural ones such as watercourses, or boundaries based on infrastructure such as railways (sometimes out of use), highways or thoroughfares that seem to structure movement within a given territory. Beyond that initial series of criteria, we paid attention to the presence of linguistic or, in some cases, ethnic communities. Finally, to arrive at the version of our proposal presented in the Appendix and Table 4, we had to make a number of arbitrary decisions, which we checked in discussions among ourselves.

Table 4

Breakdown of the 78 electoral districts, by variance
Quota: 101,321
Variance ≥ 10% between 5% and 9.99% between 2% and 4.99% between –1.99% and 1.99% between –2% and –4.99% between –5% and –9.99% ≤ –10%
Electoral districts - Gaspésie—
Les Îles
- Rimouski
- Elzéar-Bernier
- Mille-Îles
- Paul-Sauvé
- Petite-Nation
- Pierre-Legardeur
- Saint-Jean
- Shefford
- Sherbrooke
- Beauce
- John-Peters-Humphrey
- La Chute
- Lac-Saint-Jean
- Lotbinière—
- Louis-Fréchette
- Outaouais
- Outremont
- Saint-Lambert
- Soulanges
- Terrebonne
- Trois-Rivières
- Vaudreuil
- Abitibi–
- Anne-Hébert
- Bourassa
- Brome—Missisquoi
- Cap-Rouge
- Charlevoix—Saguenay
- Châteauguay
- Compton—Stanstead
- Curé-Labelle
- Denis-Benjamin-Viger
- Étienne-Parent
- Hautes-Laurentides—
- Hochelaga
- Laurentides
- Lévis
- Lignery
- Longueuil
- MacDonald-Langstaff
- Montarville
- Montréal-Est
- Nicolas-Vincent
- Ozias-Leduc
- Paul-Ragueneau
- Plateau—Mile End
- Richmond—
- Rivière-des-Prairies
- Saint-Hyacinthe—
- Saint-Léonard
- Sault-au-Récollet
- Urbain-Brossard
- Verdun
- Wilder-Penfield
- Alfred-Dubuc
- Alfred-Pellan
- Aylmer
- Côte-de-Beaupré
- Drummond
- Lachine—LaSalle
- Montcalm
- Papineau
- Québec
- Roger-Lemelin
- Sainte-Rose
- Verchères—
Les Patriotes
- Ville-Marie
- George-Étienne-
- Gilles-Villeneuve
- Idola-Saint-Jean
- Joliette
- Lac-Saint-Louis
- Manicouagan
- Maurice-Richard
- Paul-Comtois
- Shawinigane
- Abitibi—
Total (78) 2 8 13 32 13 9 1

Greatest variances:
Rimouski: +10.98%
Abitibi—Nunavik: –15.64%

The ideal would be a redistribution based on a perfectly egalitarian distribution of Quebec's population within 78 electoral districts; in practice, this was an unattainable objective. Nevertheless, we made every effort to achieve the best possible result. Accordingly, we managed to map 32 electoral districts, each with a population that varies less than 2% from the established quota of 101,321 residents. A further 26 districts each have a variance between 2% and 4.99%, positive in 13 cases and negative in 13. Of the remaining 20 electoral districts with a variance of 5% or more, only 3 have a variance equal to or greater than 10%; the greatest positive variance is +10.98% in Rimouski, and the greatest negative variance is –15.64% in Abitibi—Nunavik.

We think that this is a satisfactory result, all things considered. We are aware that some stakeholders in Quebec society might have a somewhat different opinion. Nevertheless, we can say that we spared no effort to ensure an equitable representation of electors throughout the province, while remaining sensitive to geographical and cultural factors and how they fit into the general picture.

The electoral map of Quebec has thus changed substantially, most notably with the addition of 3 electoral districts: 2 in Montréal's northern rim and 1 in its southern rim. Further, under the 25% rule set out in subsection 15(2) of the Act, we had to reduce the number of electoral districts in Eastern Quebec by 1 and establish another district elsewhere. For that district, the Commission members chose a site on the Island of Montréal.

In our opinion, the proposed changes reflect the new reality of Quebec, with the current trend toward higher-density urban centres instead of suburban sprawl. The City of Montréal is no exception to this pronounced trend, as evidenced by the Metropolitan Land Use and Development Plan for Greater Montréal; this projects that more than 300,000 new households will be established in the area over the next 20 years, containing over half a million people.

These changes led us to seek new names for a large number of electoral districts. Under the circumstances, we felt it appropriate to take account of the new reality, while drawing on the geography and history of the districts concerned.

We also drew on the guidelines of the Geographical Names Board of Canada concerning the selection of names for federal electoral districts:

The name of a federal electoral district should only be kept from one readjustment to another if it is suitable and if the new district falls essentially within the boundaries of the former electoral district. When the boundaries of an electoral district are changed considerably, one must, without question, consider assigning it another name.

The Board also recommends that the names selected be those that "immediately lead one to recall the province" in which the districts are situated, ideally geographical names. However, given the large number of districts to which we had to assign a new name, we considered it appropriate to designate a number of them by the name of a person rather than a geographical name. This avoids any ambiguity. It also gives recognition to certain persons and sites prominent in Quebec's history and connected with the areas in which the districts are situated.

The Commission decided to keep the existing names of the following 22 districts, with only minor or no changes:

  • Abitibi—Témiscamingue
  • Alfred-Pellan
  • Beauce
  • Bourassa
  • Brome—Missisquoi
  • Compton—Stanstead
  • Drummond
  • Hochelaga
  • Joliette
  • Lac-Saint-Louis
  • Manicouagan
  • Montcalm
  • Outremont
  • Papineau
  • Richmond—Arthabaska
  • Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot
  • Saint-Jean
  • Saint-Lambert
  • Shefford
  • Sherbrooke
  • Trois-Rivières
  • Verchères—Les Patriotes

For the 56 other districts, however, the Commission has proposed new names, for the reasons explained at the beginning of the description of each of these districts.

The Commission has prepared a proposal dividing the province into 78 electoral districts. They are identified in this report by their name, population and description, illustrated by maps.

Persons wishing to make representations or attend a Commission hearing are directed to the rules of procedure set out below.

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