By Michael Boriero
Local Journalism Initiative
With another provincial election in the books, The Record reached out to Bishop’s University Canadian politics professor Dr. Jacob Robbins-Kanter to discuss the landslide victory for François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), and electoral reform in the province.
After it was announced that the CAQ would remain in power with a majority government, gathering 90 seats this time around compared to 76 back in 2018, many Quebecers took to social media to express their displeasure with the provincial electoral system currently in place.
However, it is highly unlikely that Legault and the CAQ will seek electoral reform given their dominance over the past two elections, explained Robbins-Kanter, adding that although the governing party once endorsed electoral reform as the opposition, it is no longer on the table.
“They didn’t follow through with it and usually if you’re a party that came into power under a certain electoral system you’re going to be reluctant to change the electoral system that got you elected, so I don’t think it’s likely to happen,” he told The Record in a phone interview.
Despite earning only 14.4 per cent of the voter share, the Quebec Liberal Party claimed 21 seats at the National Assembly. Québec Solidaire, meanwhile, had 15.4 per cent of the voter share, amounting to just 11 seats in Quebec City. The Conservative Party faired even worse.
Although they finished with 12.9 per cent of the voter share, the Conservative Party of Quebec failed to gain any seats at all. And the Parti Québécois also floundered earning only three seats with 14.6 per cent of the voter share. Robbins-Kanter said it’s based on geographical support.
“You can come in second all over the place, in tons of ridings all over the province, and coming in second even by a few votes gets you nothing. The system certainly rewards geographic concentration of support and that’s responsible for the result that we saw,” he explained.
The results, while predictable, based on the polling data released periodically throughout September, were striking, Robbins-Kanter noted, because it has put the weaknesses of Quebec’s electoral system in the spotlight, especially what happened to the Conservatives.
They were able to generate more votes in this election, and yet, they weren’t rewarded for their efforts on the campaign trail. Asked whether this election, which was effectively a lock for the CAQ, might discourage Quebecers from voting in the future, Robbins-Kanter said it’s unlikely.
“Despite knowing that the CAQ were basically assured to win, the voter turnout was still fairly high, so I guess it is possible that people can feel discouraged and not thrilled about all of their options but still say ‘I guess at the end of the day I might as well vote for someone,’” he said.
There is research, however, that shows turnout is generally higher in countries that use a more proportional voting system, Robbins-Kanter continued, and there are advocates pushing for this type of electoral reform in the province. But ultimately folks still showed up to cast a vote.