Part I Initial Report to the House of Commons (February 15, 2013) – Quebec – Commission's Proposal

Commission's Proposal

Our proposal was grounded initially in the Act itself, which seeks the best possible balance in the size of the different electoral districts and seeks to respect communities of interest so as not to unduly lessen their role.

To that effect, section 15 of the Act reads as follows:

  • 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 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 per cent more or twenty-five per cent less of the electoral quota for the province.

Like its predecessors, the Commission felt it was desirable, with justifiable exceptions, that the vast majority of electoral districts vary by a maximum of 10%, more or less, from the established electoral quota of 101,321 residents. This was the starting point for the Commission’s work. Two changes had arisen since the previous redistribution. The first was a natural change, revealed by data in the 2011 Census. The second change was political in nature: it involved the addition of three electoral districts within Quebec's territory. The redistribution therefore had to be carried out on the basis of a new total of 78 electoral districts and the new electoral quota mentioned earlier.

The addition of three electoral districts produced a domino effect, displacing the boundaries of a significant number of other electoral districts. We also had to bear in mind the objective of seeking a demographic balance among all electoral districts while respecting communities of interest to the best of our knowledge.

Quebec's electoral map became subject to change in consequence of the addition of two electoral districts in Montréal's northern rim and one in its southern rim. Furthermore, a significant population deficit in Eastern Quebec led us to propose a reduction in the number of electoral districts in that region. The Commission then had the opportunity to determine the location of a new electoral district elsewhere in Quebec. The Commission members favoured the Island of Montréal, so as to take account of the population densification projected within that territory. In our opinion, the proposed changes reflected the new reality of Quebec, in line with the current trend toward limiting urban sprawl – a trend from which the City of Montréal is not immune.

However, the reduction in the number of electoral districts in Eastern Quebec had the effect of substantially increasing the population per electoral district in the regions of Rimouski, Rivière-du-Loup and Montmagny, beyond the preferred optimal variance of 10% for each electoral district in Quebec. In contrast, the addition of electoral districts in the northern and southern rims of Montréal required that some electoral districts or regions be broken up, such as Vaudreuil-Soulanges and Lanaudière.

These changes led us to seek new names for a large number of electoral districts and to assign names to the three added electoral districts. We 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.

In such cases, we took into consideration the geographic and historical situation of the affected electoral districts. Moreover, while our mission is not cultural, we thought it appropriate to be more creative when naming electoral districts by highlighting the contribution of people who have shaped Quebec's evolution. We had felt this was a great opportunity to recognize women and men without a necessarily political past, such as two women who played a significant role in winning public recognition for the status of women in Quebec. We also thought it appropriate to choose people’s names for existing electoral districts when the changes made to the district appeared considerable enough to warrant a new name.

The Commission was not breaking ground in adopting such an approach, as many electoral districts on the current map (2003) are named after people. We did meet with strong criticism on occasion: "An electoral map is not a pantheon!" Such comments were duly noted, although there were no calls for past choices to be corrected. We need only mention the names of Louis-Hébert, Alfred-Pellan, Jeanne-Le Ber and Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, besides those geographic names combined with the name of a person, such as Chambly—Borduas and Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher. A number of political names could be added to that list, such as Honoré-Mercier and Louis-Saint-Laurent, which seem classified as untouchable! It is worth noting that people’s names are an integral part of the provincial electoral map, designating numerous electoral districts.

We should note, to properly reflect the representations made on that subject, the sometimes enthusiastic approval of those stakeholders who applauded our approach. To avoid any pitfalls in achieving the core objectives of the electoral redistribution process, however, we felt it wise to abandon our original intention of favouring the use of people's names when new names were required; after all, the map we were called to draw is not ours, but rather that of the citizens and their representatives.

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