Wednesday, March 4, 2009

No Quebec Electoral Reform by Legal Means

The Superior Court of Quebec ruled against an action brought by the Association pour la revendication des droits democratiques (loosely translated as the Association for the Re-establishment of Democratic rights) or ARDD. The ARDD argued that Quebec's first-past-the-post electoral system, as used in the rest of Canada was unfair and discriminated against minorities, notably, Montreal Anglophones.

The proportional representation the ARDD argues for would ensure that deputies sent to the National Assembly in Quebec City would be chosen based on a formula that would factor in both the number of votes cast for an individual and the number of votes cast for a party. A great deal of detailed, mathematical explanations of this system are on the ARDD's website. In a nutshell, the system proposed will better reflect the popular vote for the whole province, as opposed to just individual ridings.

I have been unable to find a copy of the judgement, handed down on February 28, 2009 so I cannot comment on the judge's ratio. This article in la Presse, indicates that the judge reasoned that the question put to him was a political one and not to be decided by the courts. Therefore, he rejected the plaintiff's case.

In the first-past-the-post system in place in Quebec, winning the popular vote does not guarantee a majority in parliament. The system proposed by the ARDD would prevent the drowning out of the voices of minorities that do not carry enough weight to elect a representatives to speak to their particular interests. A similar system exists in Australia where voters (who must vote by law) rank candidates in order of preference. This nifty little video explains it.

I look forward to reading the Court's decision when I can get my hands on it. If anybody out there has access to it, I would love to have a look. Until then, I welcome thoughts on this decision.

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