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Quebec minister agrees to postpone electoral map reform


Quebec's democratic institutions minister, Jean-François Roberge, has accepted the opposition parties' request to postpone electoral map reform.

He made the announcement Thursday morning in the company of MNAs Monsef Derraji (Parti libéral du Québec), Sol Zanetti (Québec solidaire) and Pascal Bérubé (Parti québécois).

"It's an exceptional measure, but a necessary one," said Roberge. "It's essential that Quebec regions like Gaspésie continue to be well represented in the National Assembly."

The government will soon table a bill to maintain the current electoral map until 2026. It will then reflect on the criteria to be considered in drawing up the next map. 

"It's time (...) to do things properly", said Derraji, who was the first to call for a pause in the reform of the electoral map in light of the proposed changes.

The law provides for a revision after two general elections, since population movements create inequalities in representation.

The draft revision presented last fall by the Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE) notably eliminated one electoral division in Gaspésie and one in the east end of Montreal, given the decline in the number of electors.

On the other hand, two new ridings were created: Marie-Lacoste-Gérin-Lajoie, in Centre-du-Québec, and Bellefeuille, in the Laurentians.

In February, several MNAs from all parties denounced the proposed revision. In particular, they complained that Gaspésie was gradually losing its political weight, and that the size of its ridings was becoming disproportionate.

"When we look at the size of the territory, it has to be a criterion. We can't just say, 'We're looking at the number of voters'," said Premier François Legault on Thursday.

"In the meantime, we've reached an agreement with the three opposition parties to protect the place of the regions."

"There are concerns in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, on the Côte-Nord, in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean that in the coming years the number of counties will be reduced and that the territories will be immense for MNAs to cover," he added.

The map is being revised so that Quebec is divided into 125 ridings of around 51,000 electors.

On Thursday, Minister Roberge stated that the revision criteria would be reviewed. He did not rule out increasing the number of MNAs in Quebec. "I'm not closing the door on anything today," he said.

The CRE did not respond to questions from The Canadian Press on Thursday. On March 5, it stated that it would continue its work "while the criteria set out in the Election Act are legitimate and democratic."

"The electoral map delimitation process must be independent and impartial, and political intervention at this stage could compromise these principles," said spokesperson Julie St-Arnaud-Drolet.

"What's more, keeping the current map until 2030 is not an acceptable option in the eyes of the commissioners, since major inequities in representation are already present and will only become more pronounced over the years," she added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 28, 2024. Top Stories

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