Quebec electoral-reform referendum on hold

Quebec was to have a referendum on a proposed new mixed-member electoral system concurrent with the next provincial election in 2022. However, that plan is now “on hold” as the bill will not be passed in time.

17 thoughts on “Quebec electoral-reform referendum on hold

  1. Westminster governments like Quebec control the allocation of parliamentary time in excruciating detail. There’s no time to pass the bill actually means We haven’t allocated enough time to pass the bill because we don’t want it to pass.

    The government of Quebec is to be congratulated. Until today I thought Canadian politicians had exhausted the supply of excuses for the Great Electoral Filibuster that has been running since the beginning of this century. Those excuses have included no parliamentary consensus (Trudeau), no supermajority (BC), not enough turnout (PEI).

    The Quebec government has taken excuse-making to a whole new level and no doubt the people of Quebec are anxiously guarding their homework from the dog that will arrive at any minute.


    • I think we should be surprised that electoral reform got as far as it did. In addition to the usual reasons we wouldn’t expect a party governing under FPTP to change the electoral system, urban Anglophone Montreal is to the Quebec Liberals as Alberta and Saskatchawan is to the federal Conservatives: that is to say, the Liberals run up huge wasteful margins in those seats, making it systematically more likely that the main non-Liberal party will win an unjustified majority. Interestingly, the Liberals were the only party to oppose electoral reform, or at least they were during the last election.


      • “I think we should be surprised that electoral reform got as far as it did.” I have said exactly that about quite a few federal and provincial reform processes in Canada.


  2. So the election results are in. Results as of 1:24 AM:

    CAQ: 90 seats;1,652,435 votes; 41.1% of total votes.
    Liberals: 21; 579,488;14.4%
    QS: 11; 609,268; 15.2%
    PQ: 3; 587,930; 14.6%
    Conservatives: 0; 523,337; 13.0%
    Turnout is 68%, up 2%.

    The results is pretty good for the CAQ, although disappointing when looking at the pre-campaign polls. The Liberal seat count is okay, boosted by domination of western Montreal, even if placing behind the QS and the PQ in votes share is somewhat embarrassing. The QS got an extra seat or two. The PQ was able to survive. The Conservatives were able to significantly raise their vote share, albeit with no seats for their troubles.

    What does this mean for electoral reform in Canada? Well, it will keep the issue alive in certain circles; but I don’t see any either the Feds or the provinces adopting anything any time soon. I don’t think it can win in any plebiscites, I don’t think any large party will accept it as condition for a coalition (knowing full well that they could get a majority next time around) and, if I am not mistaken, legal challenges ask for the courts to declare FPTP as unconstitutional have also failed. Thus, I don’t think there is really a good path forward here. The only way forward for Canadian electoral reform, IMHO, is for PR advocates to swallow their pride and see if they can get Trudeau’s ranked ballots proposal somewhere. It’s not ideal and it could end badly for them, but I don’t any other plausible route.


    • I agree with your analysis of the challenges. Even so, I guess I do not see it as quite that bleak. Had BC not had the 60% threshold on the referendum, or had the YES vote been just a few percentage points higher, it would have passed there. I don’t know if there would have been a “demonstration effect” or not, but my main point is that getting to reform adoption is pretty contingent. And past contingencies could have gone the other way, as could future ones.

      Inherently, the issue is not going to go away (as you say).

      “Inherent” and “contingent” conditions in reform processes is me riffing off my own work on the topic–much of which focused on Canada, but now a 14-year old piece. I am referring to this item (unfortunately not on line as far as I know):
      “Inherent and Contingent Factors in Reform Initiation in Plurality Systems,” in To Keep or Change First Past the Post, ed. By André Blais. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.


      • Oh, and I do NOT think AV could be plausibly a path to PR–I take it you agree. Just no evidence for that. But I leave it to PR advocates to decide whether it is worth “swallowing” as both better than FPTP and attainable where PR is not.


      • Two years ago, the Minister Responsible began the public hearings with a noble sentiment: ”These consultations will indeed give us the opportunity to hear interesting and diverse opinions on the reform of the voting system proposed by the government. They will undoubtedly allow us to improve this bill which now belongs to all of us. It is with openness, as I said, that I will welcome, that we will welcome the different opinions that we will hear over the next few days.
        “Many have tried to carry out this reform in recent years. Several governments have promised to do so. It’s been 40 years … more than 40 years that we have talked about it, and someone said to me rightly: If it had been simple, if it had been easy, because this is a very laudable principle, an improved democracy, we would have done it already. Our government has taken an important first step towards historic reform. From now on, it is together, collectively, that we must go the rest of the way to achieve this.”

        As Ryan Campbell has already posted, Radio-Canada has published a simulation based on Bill 39’s half-compensatory model: CAQ 75 seats rather than 90. Liberals 16 seats rather than 21. Québec Solidaire 14 seats rather than 11. PQ 10 seats rather than 3. Conservatives 10 seats rather than 0. A big reduction in regional polarization. Otherwise, hardly worth pursuing, a step forward, but might be hard to sell in a referendum.

        “There is a polarization of the electorate, says Jean-Sébastien Dufresne of the Quebec Observatory of Democracy. More and more people will not find themselves in our democratic representation, which risks raising questions. The “misrepresentation” at the national level, further demonstrated with the 2022 ballot, will raise the greatest possible irritation, which should create a sufficient shock to relaunch the debate on the voting method. “The opposition is fragmented and many voices will not be represented in the National Assembly, reiterates in turn Jean-Pierre Charbonneau of the New Democracy Movement. The reform of the voting system becomes a major and urgent imperative for our good democratic health.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’d note Trudeau is only open to single winner ranked ballots (ie AV/IRV). I don’t see any point in supporting that. Reform for its own sake is a dead end in my opinion.

      If Trudeau’s willing to put even a little water in his wine when it comes to STV or AV+ (the latter having it’s own set of issues of course), then I think you could get at least 2 of the opposition parties on board. They may not be enough for people to see the reform as legitimate though, meaning there’s a high risk of a counter reform.

      Liked by 1 person

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