Federal electoral districts redistribution 2022

Addendum – Disposition of Objections

Introduction

The report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Quebec (the Commission), dated January 31, 2023, was tabled in the House of Commons and sent to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (the Committee) on February 1, 2023.

The Clerk of the Committee received objections from 18 members of Parliament (MPs) within the prescribed 30-day period. Some of the objections concerned both the changes to the electoral district boundaries and the name the Commission had assigned to it. In total, eleven (11) MPs objected to the electoral boundaries and ten (10), to the names chosen by the Commission.

In its 39th report, pertaining to the report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Quebec, tabled in the House of Commons on May 17, 2023, and transmitted to the Chief Electoral Officer by the Speaker of the House of Commons on May 18, 2023, the Committee supports all the objections and recommends that the Commission consider them favourably.

It should be noted, however, that the Committee's report is not unanimous. It includes a dissenting opinion from the 4 Conservative Party members on the Committee (out of 12 members). More specifically, with regard to the three electoral districts of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, the 4 dissenting members are of the opinion that the objections raised by the MPs for Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière should have been dismissed and the Commission's conclusions in this regard, confirmed. In respect of the objections concerning the boundaries of the electoral districts of Mégantic—L'Érable, Compton—Stanstead and Bécancour—Saurel—Odanak, the dissenting members agree with the Committee's conclusions, while providing their own reasons for doing so. Lastly, regarding the other objections about electoral boundaries, they express no opinion.

The Commission had thirty (30) days, from May 18, 2023, until June 17, 2023, to announce its decision on each of the Committee's recommendations.

Reasons and Decisions

The Commission's report submitted for consideration to the MPs and the Committee dealt, as required by subsection (1) of section 20 of the Act, with "the division of the province into electoral districts, the descriptions and boundaries of the districts and the population of and name to be given to each district."

The objections upheld by the Committee relate, in some cases, to the electoral boundaries and, in others, to the names assigned to them, as well as to the Commission's decision to eliminate an electoral district in the Gaspé Peninsula (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia).

The arguments in support of these objections are essentially those received and analyzed by the Commission after the publication of its Proposal.

According to the opponents, the Commission's decisions unduly weaken the political weight of the regions to the benefit of urban centres. This, of course, is the case if an electoral district is abolished but also if an electoral district is enlarged with the addition of territories that have more urban issues. The Commission's decisions would thus threaten the regions and lead to a democratic imbalance that would be to their disadvantage, to the point of, in the opinion of some opponents, [translation] "jeopardizing the democratic health of our nation."

The Commission's decisions would be guided by purely mathematical imperatives—the quest for the closest possible match between electoral district population and electoral quota—to the detriment of other factors mentioned in section 15 of the Act, such as community of interest, specificity of an electoral district or of its history, size of territory and "extraordinary circumstances."

Disappointed with the conclusions drawn by the Commission, the opponents consider that its members failed to grasp the importance of the issues at stake in their part of the country, or, more bluntly, that they are out of touch with local realities and appear indifferent to them. The Commission was thus reproached for not respecting the integrity of Quebec's administrative regions; the example cited was the RCM of La Matanie, which now finds itself in an electoral district that includes Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine, though it did not mention that the Commission was merely granting the wish expressed by the RCM's authorities.

Many opponents want the Commission to disregard the numerical criterion of the electoral quota in favour of the more subjective criteria mentioned in the Act and the concept of effective representation, all too easily forgetting that the primary condition of effective representation remains that of relative parity of electoral weight among all citizens ("one person, one vote").

The marked departures from this rule, as well as the use of the notion of "extraordinary circumstances" when the deviation between the population of a district and the electoral quota exceeds 25%, must remain exceptions in order not to betray the object and spirit of the current Act.

It would be inequitable, and contrary to the concept of a healthy democracy, for an MP to represent far more or far fewer citizens than the electoral quota allows. In the first case, there would be under-representation of an electoral district's population and, in the other, over-representation.

It is simply impossible, as the Commission pointed out in its report, to revise the electoral map according to the principles set out in the Act while respecting all the physical boundaries already established for administrative, political and economic purposes, or, as is often claimed, on the basis of history or identity. In this context, maintaining the status quo as advocated by most opponents is not a neutral position. Rather, it represents a bias in favour of unequal electoral redistribution, contrary to the Act.

These are arguments that the Commission has already dealt with at length in its report, recalling the fundamental democratic objective—equality of political weight among all citizens of Quebec—sought by the redrawing of the electoral map every 10 years, subject to the particular situations of departure from this rule provided in section 15 of the Act.

A number of MPs were astonished that the Commission's report contained elements that did not appear in its Proposal and on which the public had therefore not been consulted, even though, in some cases, they were "major changes." The criticism concerns both the boundaries of electoral districts and the assignment of names. A lack of transparency, and even a breach of procedural fairness, were mentioned. Yet, the Commission had simply followed the two-stage consultation process provided in the Act: first, a general public consultation on an initial proposal (July 2022), then a consultation with members of the House of Commons, with, in between, the drafting of a report (January 2023) that inevitably includes novel responses to the issues brought to its attention by the public.

Regarding the electoral district names, the many objections upheld by the Committee eloquently illustrate the importance of this subject for local populations. Dissatisfaction is generally expressed when a local reference (for example, the name of an RCM or a municipality) disappears from the name of an electoral district, while at the same time, the Commission's desire to shorten the names of electoral districts as much as possible is welcomed. It is also not readily accepted when a name is not part of an electoral district when it should be in order to better define the district's territory or reinforce the local population's sense of belonging. In this respect, the Commission was particularly sensitive to the suggestions and comments made by MPs regarding the name of the electoral district they represent. But for a few exceptions, the Commission has acted on their suggestions.

As for the Commission's wish that the federal electoral map should reflect the presence of all recognized Indigenous nations in Quebec (10 First Nations and the Inuit Nation), all MPs who spoke on the subject praised this initiative, with objections in two cases to the Commission's choice of Indigenous reference, each including a specific suggestion for its replacement.

The Commission notes, as it did in its Proposal and in its report, that the addition of an Indigenous reference to the name of a particular electoral district must not be perceived or interpreted as the Commission taking a position on any claim to the territory of that electoral district or any other territory by the Indigenous nation to which the reference relates or by any other Indigenous nation.

Finally, the Commission emphasizes that its analysis of the objections to electoral district names was based on the guidelines of the Geographical Names Board of Canada.

The Commission now turns to the recommendations made by the Committee, grouping them according to the electoral districts concerned and territorial groupings described in its report.

Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord

The Committee has made two recommendations aimed at returning to the redistribution of the three electoral districts in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region suggested in the Proposal.

The Commission accepts the recommendations, restores the boundaries of the three electoral divisions of the region as described in its Proposal and declares that the name Jonquière replaces that of Jonquière—Alma.

The Commission acknowledged the dissent expressed by four members of the Committee. The reasons are sound and in line with what the Commission explained in its report (p. 21–22). That said, the Commission also took note of the decision of the MPs for the Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière electoral districts to support, albeit reluctantly, the Commission's July 2022 proposal, which, like the most recent one, was endorsed by the MP for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. In these circumstances, the Commission considers it wiser to revert to the initial proposal, as the reasons then expressed still apply (p. 12).


The Committee recommends that the name Côte-Nord—Nitassinan replace that of Côte Nord—Kawawachikamach—Uapashke assigned by the Commission.

The Commission accepts the recommendation in part and declares that the name Côte Nord—Kawawachikamach—Nitassinan replaces that assigned by the Commission in the report. The Commission cannot accept the suggestion in its entirety, as it would compromise its desire to see all First Nations and the Inuit Nation represented on Quebec's federal electoral map. The geographical name Kawawachikamach reflects the presence of the Naskapi First Nation on the territory and must remain in the name of the electoral district.

From Montmagny to Îles-de-la-Madeleine

The Committee makes three recommendations concerning the upholding of the electoral district of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

The Commission rejects the recommendations and confirms its decision to abolish the current electoral district of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia. In this regard, the Commission refers to the reasons included in its report and adds a comment about the argument related to the impact this decision would have on the quality of services to constituents. This is an issue for which the solution is in the hands of the House of Commons and its Board of Internal Economy, a body charged with establishing the amount and terms and conditions of the resources allocated to the MPs for their electoral district offices. This comment is similar to the one made by the previous Commission (p. 11 of its report [2013]).


The Committee also recommends that the RCM of La Matanie be attached to the electoral district of Rimouski—La Matapédia rather than to that of Gaspésie—Les Îles de-la-Madeleine—Listuguj.

The Commission rejects the recommendation since, in doing so, it respects the wishes of the authorities of the RCM of La Matanie.


The Committee supports the objection to the name Rimouski—La Matapédia and recommends that the Commission choose a name that would reflect the regional and territorial identity more fully.

The Commission rejects the recommendation and reiterates the reasons presented in its report (p. 26) to justify the name Rimouski—La Matapédia.


Lastly, the Committee recommends that the name Côte-du-Sud—Rivière-du-Loup—Kataskomiq—Témiscouata replace that of Montmagny—Témiscouata—Kataskomiq assigned by the Commission.

The Commission accepts the recommendation and declares that the name Côte-du-Sud—Rivière-du-Loup—Kataskomiq—Témiscouata replaces that of Montmagny—Témiscouata—Kataskomiq.

Chaudière-Appalaches (west part), Estrie and Centre-du-Québec

The Committee makes three recommendations concerning the redistribution of the electoral districts of Mégantic—L'Érable, Compton—Stanstead and Bécancour—Saurel—Odanak.

The Commission accepts the recommendations, removes from the electoral district of Bécancour—Saurel—Odanak the municipalities of Leclercville, Val-Alain and Villeroy to attach them to that of Mégantic—L'Érable and removes from the electoral district of Mégantic—L'Érable the municipalities of Lingwick, Scotstown and Weedon to attach them to that of Compton—Stanstead.


The Committee recommends that the name Appalaches—Mégantic—L'Érable—Lotbinière replace that of Mégantic—L'Érable.

The Commission accepts the recommendation in part and declares that the name Mégantic—L'Érable—Lotbinière replaces that initially assigned. However, the arguments put forward do not convince the Commission of the relevance of adding the word "Appalaches" to the name of the electoral district, given that this mountain range covers a vast territory, from Newfoundland to the middle of Alabama.


Lastly, the Committee recommends that the name Alnôbak—Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel replace that of Bécancour—Saurel—Odanak assigned by the Commission in its report.

The Commission accepts the recommendation in part and declares that the name Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel—Alnôbak replaces that assigned by the Commission. The geographical name "Nicolet" is already in the current name of the electoral district, and it is best that it remains there, whereas the replacement of Odanak with the endonym Alnôbak, which refers to the members of the Abenaki First Nation (Waban-Aki), would respect the wishes of the community. However, the Commission believes it is preferable that the name of the electoral district begin with a geographical name rather than with an endonym to make it easier to locate.

Eastern Montérégie

The Committee recommends that the name Mont-Saint-Bruno—L'Acadie (or L'Acadie—Mont-Saint-Bruno) replace that of Montarville, the first element being visible from everywhere in the electoral district and the second referring to the name of the river that flows through the town of Carignan, a portion of which is now included in the electoral district's territory.

The Commission accepts the recommendation and declares that the name Mont-Saint-Bruno—L'Acadie replaces the current name of the electoral district.

Southwestern Montérégie

The Committee recommends that the name Beauharnois—Salaberry—Soulanges—Huntingdon replace that of Beauharnois—Soulanges assigned by the Commission in its report.

The Commission accepts the recommendation and declares that the name Beauharnois—Salaberry—Soulanges—Huntingdon replaces that assigned by the Commission.

Island of Montréal

The Committee makes two recommendations concerning the redistribution of the electoral district of Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Sœurs and, by extension, of the electoral districts of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, Laurier—Sainte-Marie and Outremont. In doing so, the Committee addresses two distinct but related requests. The first request pertains to a quadrilateral lying southwesterly of the district (a portion of the neighbourhood of Saint-Henri) that the Commission is transferring to the district of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount; it is requested that this quadrilateral be returned to the electoral district of Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Sœurs. The second request pertains to a quadrilateral located north of the electoral district of Laurier—Sainte-Marie (a portion of the neighbourhood of Plateau Mont-Royal known as "Le Petit Laurier") that the Commission is transferring to Outremont; it is requested that this quadrilateral be returned to the electoral district of Laurier—Sainte-Marie and, in return, it is proposed that the quadrilateral located south of the electoral district, on the Old Port side, be returned to the electoral district of Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Sœurs.

The Commission rejects the recommendations. The population of these four electoral districts is very similar, ranging from 111,377 to 115,704. If the Commission were to accept the two requests, the inequalities would be too great; the deviation from the electoral quota would range from -7% for the least populated of the four districts to +23% for the most populated. If the Commission were to accept only one of the two requests, the population of at least one electoral district would exceed 120,000 people, i.e., more than 10% above the electoral quota. In both cases, the result is not acceptable. Lastly, the Commission notes that, given the urban dynamics, the communities of interest in this area of Montréal are particularly fluid and, therefore, hard to identify precisely.


The Committee recommends that the current name of the electoral district of Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle replace that of Dorval—Lachine assigned by the Commission in its report and, similarly, that the current name of the electoral district of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun replace that of LaSalle—Verdun.

The Commission accepts both recommendations and declares that the name Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle replaces that of Dorval—Lachine, and that the name LaSalle—Émard—Verdun replaces that of LaSalle—Verdun.


Lastly, the Committee recommends that the name Hochelaga—Rosemont-Est replace that of Hochelaga assigned by the Commission in its report. The addition of the geographical name "Rosemont-Est" reflects the fact that this territory has been part of the electoral district for many years and forms a large portion of it.

The Commission accepts the recommendation and declares that the name Hochelaga—Rosemont-Est replaces that initially assigned.

From Pontiac to Saint-Maurice – Champlain

The Committee makes a recommendation concerning the Laurentides—Lanaudière subgroup of this territory and, more specifically, the electoral districts of Mirabel and of Rivière-du-Nord. It recommends that the territory of the municipality of Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines return to the electoral district of Mirabel.

The Commission rejects the recommendation. The impact that this change would have on the population inequality between the two districts is too great to justify accepting it. This change would increase the population of Mirabel from 100,598 to 115,819 and lower that of Rivière-du-Nord from 113,514 to 98,293.

In summary, all the changes stemming from the decisions made by the Commission are shown in the following table in alphabetical order of the electoral districts in question.

As a result, the Loosemore-Hanby index (which measures the overall inequality of the electoral distribution) changes to 0.0238 from 0.0415 at the start of the Commission's work.

Name in the report
January 31, 2023
Name selected Population Deviation from Electoral Quota
Beauharnois—Soulanges Beauharnois—Salaberry—Soulanges—Huntingdon - -
Bécancour—Saurel—
Odanak
Bécancour—Nicolet—Saurel—Alnôbak 96,439 -11,5%
Chicoutimi—Le Fjord - 92,460 -15,2%
Côte-Nord—Kawawachikamach—Uapashke Côte-Nord—Kawawachikamach—Nitassinan - -
Compton—Stanstead - 113,282 3,9%
Dorval—Lachine Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle - -
Hochelaga Hochelaga—Rosemont-Est - -
Jonquière—Alma Jonquière 91,061 -16,5%
Lac-Saint-Jean - 92,031 -15,6%
LaSalle—Verdun LaSalle—Émard—Verdun - -
Mégantic—L'Érable Mégantic—L'Érable—Lotbinière 103,114 -5,4%
Montarville Mont-Saint-Bruno—L'Acadie - -
Montmagny—Témiscouata—Kataskomiq Côte-du-Sud—Rivière-du-Loup—Kataskomiq—Témiscouata - -

Epilogue

Upon concluding this federal electoral district redistribution exercise for the Province of Quebec, the members of the Commission could not be prouder to have taken part to the best of their abilities in this undertaking that is critical to Canada's democratic process.

They are also very proud that, for the first time in the country, each of the 11 Indigenous nations recognized in Quebec, namely the 10 First Nations and the Inuit Nation, has a place on the electoral map. The Commission sees this as a way to open our collective mind to the Indigenous reality; a way to give Indigenous people the importance they deserve, not only because they are the first inhabitants of Canada, but also because they are an inherent part of its history.

Concluding its work, the Commission also wishes to highlight the importance of the public consultation process. For the members, this process was a great human experience and a crucial source of practical information. Despite the best efforts and will of the members of a redistribution commission, their knowledge of the territory cannot ever match that of the people who live on it. The many changes the Commission has made to its Proposal following its public consultation testify to the latter's value.

Dated in Montréal, Quebec, this 16th day of June, 2023.

The Honourable Jacques Chamberland,

Chair

André Blais,

Member

Louis Massicotte,

Member

Certified copy of the report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Quebec.