It's a bit sad to see the that the pernicious attack on democracy vis-a-vis the re-redistricting of electoral ridings in Quebec has gone sadly uncontested by our elected officials who it seems have gotten an 'independent' commission to do the dirty work that which they themselves would never dare to try.
The so-called independent agency (Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE)) that draws up the Quebec electoral map is supposed to act fairly and impartially in dividing up the ridings according to these rules and principles.
It's not that complicated if one remains fair and impartial, but it becomes problematic when the commission invokes political motives. There are so many voters and so many ridings, divide one from the other and you get a number that represents the number of electors that each riding should represent."Il importe d'assurer l'égalité relative du vote, c'est-à-dire que le poids du vote d'un électeur ne doit pas être disproportionné par rapport au poids du vote d'un autre électeur, à moins d'une situation exceptionnelle. Pour ce faire, il faut regrouper un nombre d'électeurs à peu près égal au sein de chaque circonscription du Québec."
"It is important to ensure the relative equality of voting, that is, the weight of an elector's vote should not be disproportionate to the weight of another voter's vote, except in an exceptional situation. To do this, we must have a roughly equal number of voters within each riding of Quebec. (ed. note my translation from the French)
Number of voters in Quebec ......6,012,440
Ideal number of voters per riding....48,100
It's pretty cut and dried, but democracy in our fair province takes a decidedly undemocratic turn when 'Quebec Rules' are applied.
The CRE allow that the orderly division of ridings be modified in consideration of subjective criteria allowing itself a margin whereby ridings can have 25% more or less voters than the average.
It means that ridings can vary by an astonishing 80%.
Lowest threshold ............................36,075
Highest threshold .......................... 60,075
Unfortunately, this disgraceful attack on democracy is practised in just about every electoral district in North America.
Even in the United States presidential election, some voters had more voting power than others, leading to Donald Trump's victory with less votes than Hillary.
How bad is this descrepency?
Well voters in Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota get to cast one electoral college vote with 143,000 voters, while it takes some 500,000 New York voters to do the same, a margin of over three and a half to one.
In Ontario, it takes two and a half as many voters in Brampton to send a MPP to the Ontario legislature as it does in Timiskaming—Cochrane.
But as usual Quebec takes the cake.
Not content to use the formula that allows the CEQ to modify ridings by the 25% plus or minus rules, the commision used its discretionary power in invoking the 'special circumstances' rule to create two Montreal ridings with 62,000 voters compared to the 11,800 voters that elect a MNA in Iles des Madeleines, an obscene difference of almost six to one.
That's right it takes about six voters in D'Arcy McGee and Mont-Royal-Outremont to mimic the voting power of one Madelinot!
Imagine if votes were divided by race instead of geography and we told Anglos, Jews, Blacks and immigrants that it would take six of their votes to equal one Francophone vote.
Too much? I think not. Fairness is fairness.
So what are these special circumstances that make it so compelling to bastardize the election ideal of one person/one vote?
The old chestnut trotted out is that outlying ridings are so geographically large that MPs are disadvantaged by travel and deserve smaller ridings despite population.
But this is not the case with the Magdalen Islands... far from it.
The Magdalen Islands are an isolated two island community in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, accessible only by air or sea.
While this is true, if the riding was twinned with the closet geographical neighbour, Gaspe, the total electors would number about 42,000, still under the provincial average.
As for hardship, there are at least two flights a day between the two districts , flights that take less than hour. Once arrived in the Islands, travel is very simple as the population is very concentrated.
As for special economic circumstances that makes it compelling to have an MP with such a sparse population, there is none.
Islanders are Canada's biggest layabouts, with the season of its biggest industry, lobster fishing, lasting just ten weeks a year, with fishers and employees in the processing living on employment insurance the rest of the year.
Islanders are renowned for their indolence and dependence on Canadians for permanent welfare. Here is what controversial radio host Andre Arthur had to say about them, much to the consternation of locals.
The Magdalen Islands is a place where residents spend the year on the BS (employment insurance,) or on either auto insurance benefits or on workman's accident insurance, where in the summer they exploit tourists in a shameful way. Every time I was in the Magdalen Islands, I felt like I was visiting an Indian reservation, that is, a place where all those who actually work, come from the outside. The people of the Islands are at home with both feet propped up in front of the stove, saying: "When will my check arrive?Here is an audio of the screed in French
By the way, that employment insurance is paid by Ottawa, so there is really no compelling business for a Quebec MNA other than to insure that the Ottawa welfare pipeline is maintained.
Democracy is fragile, its biggest enemy are those who chip away at its fundamental tenets quietly through bureaucracy and regulation. It remains our civic duty to defend the principles of democracy, because if we leave it up to politicians and bureaucrats, we will find ourselves stripped of our rights...... and by the way, we are already half way there.