By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
The National Assembly of Quebec convenes today for its first session before closing for the winter recess since this fall’s elections. It does so amid a backdrop of growing voices for electoral reform, with both political and activist leaders calling for changes to Quebec’s electoral system, which they believe unfairly reflects the actual preferences of the provincial electorate.
Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon announced that his party agreed to three requests made by the Conservative Party of Quebec: access to the National Assembly for press briefings, access to an office and access to closed-door sessions such as the government’s budget. The party agreed to this because the Conservative Party, despite taking 12.91 per cent of the vote, has no elected members in the current legislature.
“Given that the current voting system has caused an unprecedented distortion in the composition of the National Assembly, we must do everything in our power to restore some democratic balance,” said Plamondon, “I think that if a party gets 13 per cent of the vote, it deserves to have at least a platform to be heard in the National Assembly.” In a press release, the PQ leader added “If voices are not heard in Parliament, where things are decided, they are often heard in the street.”
These voices will be on display today in a demonstration scheduled by Mobilisation Citoyenne pour une Réforme du Scrutin (MCRS), in conjunction with several other activists and election reformist groups. MCRS, whose goal is to mobilize the population in order to put in place a mixed-member proportional voting system with national compensation and regional distribution, will be protesting at noon in front of the National Assembly in Quebec City.
According to the PQ leader, the actions of the three dominating parties have actually increased the distortion of power. “None of the parties present at the negotiating table, whether the PLQ, the CAQ or QS…sought to reform the method of allocating resources,” said Plamondon, referring to the four party’s striking of a deal regarding speaking time, budgets, and more before the legislature convened.
Although first-past-the-post voting systems, where only the largest share of votes are needed for a party to win, are widely used, they commonly produce electoral results contrary to what the majority wants. In Quebec, despite the PQ (14.61 per cent) outperforming the Liberals (14.37 per cent), the PQ received the smallest share of the seats in this election (3) compared to the Liberals (21).