The thinking being of course, that students who have a historically low turnout would be encouraged to vote in higher numbers and do so largely for the PQ, as the very young are apt to do.
But as Bobby Burns told us, so long ago; The best laid schemes of mice and men....
It seems that students at Montreal's McGill University and Concordia are availing themselves of the privilege and that has incited the PQ and their semi-official party newspaper, the Journal de Montreal to launch a virulent attack on Anglo students, meant more to stir up resentment among francophone voters than address any illegality.
The newspaper has launched a virulent smear campaign, intimating that those who are registering to vote are doing so illegally, all without a shred of evidence.
The story was sparked by a returning officer who resigned rather than register these 'foreigners' based on what he claimed was the inability of officials to verify the students' bone fides.
The urban myth of thousands and thousands of such 'Anglo illegals' who voted in the 1995 referendum is a legend that separatists love to invoke, in their belief that the 1995 referendum was stolen by dirty tricks and English money.
The Journal de Montreal has written no less than five articles about these anglo student voters, stoking a controversy that has reached the highest levels of the PQ where the wedge issue is judged useful, whether true or not.
Worst of all, The JdeMtl is proposing the wild and inaccurate assertion that even if the students fulfill all the criteria, they must intend on living in Quebec long-term to be eligible to vote.
It would interesting to know whether the reporter Caroline Pailliez made up this particular condition or was told the same by some election officer, which actually would be more dangerous.
I've taken a screen cap of the statement made by the reporter that a voter must "have the intention to reside in Quebec long-term"
The same assertion is repeated in another Journal de Montreal story HERE
The Huffington Post picked up the story and repeated the same nonsense;
"Quebec's chief electoral office is trying to clarify the rules for voter eligibility after a number of English-speaking university students from elsewhere in Canada complained they were unable to register for the April 7 provincial election.
Denis Dion, a spokesman for the electoral office, said there are certain cases that are more difficult to assess and the key point is to determine whether a person is committed to living in Quebec." Link
But the law is exceeding clear. This from the website of the Director General of Elections
Here is the clause denoting who can vote directly from the Quebec Elections Act
CHAPTER ISo the question of what is a person's domicile, is interpreted by the Quebec Civil Code
1. Every person who
(1) has attained 18 years of age
(2) is a Canadian citizen,
(3) has been domiciled in Québec for six months,
(4) is not under curatorship, and
(5) is not deprived of election rights pursuant to this Act, the Referendum Act (chapter C-64.1), the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities (chapter E-2.2) or the Act respecting school elections (chapter E-2.3),
The domicile of a person is the domicile established under the Civil Code.
Nowhere does it say that the person must commit to living in this domicile in the future or for any determined length of time, just that it actually represents his or her principle residence.CHAPTER II
DOMICILE AND RESIDENCE
75. The domicile of a person, for the exercise of his civil rights, is at the place of his principal establishment.
76. Change of domicile is effected by actual residence in another place coupled with the intention of the person to make it the seat of his principal establishment.The proof of such intention results from the declarations of the person and from the circumstances of the case.
Determining whether a voter's domicile is principle is reasonable when voters have more than one home.
This is the case with voters who have country chalets, but must vote in the riding of their city home because it is their principle residence.
"To establish “domicile,” The chief electoral officer, Jacques Drouin explained that a potential voter must not only provide proof that they have resided here for at least six months, but may also be asked to prove that Quebec is the place they consider to be their “principal establishment.” That could mean handing over evidence of bank accounts in a Quebec banking institution, a Quebec health insurance card, a Quebec driver’s licence, or an income tax return filed in Quebec, Drouin said. " LinkBut for students who came from other provinces, who live in Quebec full-time and have a Quebec residence as their principle address, the issue of whether they intend to live here in the future is nobody's business, certainly not a criterion for eligibility.
At any rate, the whole story is journalistic trash and utterly dishonest, a push piece masquerading as news from its opening line.
"Ontario students are trying to vote en mass in the next general election in order to avoid a referendum on sovereignty".
(Des étudiants ontariens essaient de voter en masse pour les prochaines élections générales au Québec afin d’éviter un référendum sur la souveraineté.)
As for the impact of these potential voters, let's look a little closer at the five ridings that are supposedly affected as mentioned in another Journal de Montreal article.
Daniel Breton, the PQ incumbent of Sainte-Marie–Saint-Jacques told a journalist that he is worried about the possible voter fraud in his riding.
But here are the facts.
Mr Breton won his riding over the Quebec Solidaire candidate with the Liberals trailing badly in third.
Even more laughable is including the riding of Westmount-Saint-Louis as a possible target of voter fraud.
The Anglo bastion is one of the safest ridings in Quebec with Jacques Chagnon of the Liberals getting over 15,000 votes compared to the PQ's 1,700.
The PQ is traditionally represented by a 'poteau' as sacrificial candidates are known in Quebec. This election's version is particularly interesting, a member of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, probably the only idiot who showed up for the job. I wouldn't go door-to-door, if I was him!
As for Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne, a look at the map indicates that there can't be more than a handful of anglo students residing there, it's too far from the schools.
Saint-François in the Eastern Townships is indeed a closely fought riding but has a minuscule Anglo student population, with Bishops University enrolment of 2,200, just about the only place one would find out-of-province students. The only other Anglo school of significance is Champlain College with it's paltry enrolment of 1,200 students, almost all of whom are locals, anyway.
As for the riding of Sherbrooke, I can't even imagine more than a handful of English out-of town students attending the local French-only universities.
Clearly the smear campaign launched by the Journal de Montreal is meant to strike an emotional response hoping to get more francophones to vote, firing them up with tales of Anglo hordes illegally voting and thus stealing the election, as popular an urban myth as exists in Quebec.
Look for the biased Journal de Montreal to offer us more of these wonderful stories in the run up to the election campaign and the more desperate the PQ gets, the wilder the stories, although I am hard-pressed to imagine a more blatant and biased story than this piece of garbage, masquerading as journalism.
After much pressure the Directeur général des élections du Québec (DGE) has verified and concluded that the reported irregularities do not exist.
In an interview with French CBC;
"This is not what the numbers show," says Jacques Drouin in an interview with Radio-Canada. Only the riding of Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne in Montreal, received a little more applications in 2012, he said, but nothing to worry about. LinkThis in response to the outgoing Justice Minister's demand that he be given daily reports on the situation, a demand flatly rejected by the DG.
It seems Bertrand St-Arnaud, the outgoing justice minister has finally woken up and come out of his self-imposed vow of silence, caused no doubt by his fear of being questioned on the legality of the Charter of Rights, something he knows, he cannot defend.
How will the media react to the fact that this whole story was fabricated?
...wait and see.