Quebec's Chief Electoral Officer’s Proposed Changes to Electoral Law

Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec Organizes Roundtables on Proposed Changes to Election Act

From January to the end of March, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ), by decision of its National Council, held roundtables to discuss proposed amendments to the electoral law recommended last fall by Quebec's Chief Electoral Officer (DGEQ), Jean-François Blanchet. On October 5, 2023, Mr. Blanchet tabled a document in the National Assembly entitled For a New Vision of the Election Act. "The report aims to generate discussions on the issues facing our electoral system and the solutions that could be implemented," Blanchet said.

In fact, discussion of the electoral law was deliberately not part of the consultation which focused on amendments proposed by the DGEQ to tighten the administrative control of his office over political parties under the guise that this is legitimate because they receive a lot of  state financing. Another feature was to introduce measures to further control party membership in the name of monitoring foreign interference and curbing hate-mongering and extremism. The net result of his proposed amendments, the PMLQ points out, would be to further strengthen state control over political parties, enhance the privileged status of those cartel parties with seats in the National Assembly, and further deprive the citizenry of any role in governance beyond casting a ballot for candidates over whom they exercise no control. All of this is to be achieved in the name of making sure the electoral law is in tune with "modern times" which includes the danger of what ruling elites are calling foreign interference in our democratic institutions.

In this vein, when Blanchet tabled his "new vision" in the National Assembly, he added:

"Our electoral system is at the heart of our democracy. However, it faces some challenges that we need to think about collectively. The last overhaul of the electoral law dates back to 1989. This law has undergone several modifications over time, but it has never been the subject of a comprehensive review. We believe that we must now look at the rules that govern elections and the solutions that would make it possible to adapt the Act to modern issues. Our approach aims to propose a new overall vision of the electoral system so that it is in tune with our times and with the expectations of our society."

The PMLQ held more than 20 meetings and roundtables to inform Quebeckers about the electoral law and to discuss the proposed amendments. These included meetings of its own National Council, and with Party members and their peers in the Outaouais, Montreal, Quebec City, the Centre-du-Québec, on the South Shore, and in several CEGEPs and universities. National roundtables were also held in person and via video conference, in addition to two roundtables with political parties not represented in the National Assembly. Other meetings and discussions were organized amongst their peers by people who participated in these roundtables. All those who participated appreciated the work to inform Quebeckers about the Election Act and the DGEQ's proposals, and to initiate discussion on the serious issues facing the electoral system, democratic process and democratic institutions.

The DGEQ, for his part, said he organized targeted meetings, a day of reflection bringing together organizations and specialists and an online public consultation. This consultation began on November 20 and ended on March 30. It was carried out in two ways: through an online questionnaire and the option of submitting a document or a brief.

As of April 21, 35 briefs or opinions have been made public on the Élections Québec website. The results of the online questionnaires are not yet known. The questionnaires were divided into six main themes:

- Right to vote (average response time: 12 minutes)

- Right of eligibility (average response time: 10 minutes)

- Financing (average response time: 8 minutes)

- Electoral and political information (average response time: 8 minutes)

- Electoral governance (average response time: 4 minutes)

- Electoral map (average response time: 4 minutes)

People had the option of completing the questionnaire, if they wished, and submitting briefs anonymously or with permission to publish. The DGEQ said,

"Whether or not you respond to the online questionnaires, you can submit a document to share with us your thoughts and your possible solutions on one or more of the six themes addressed in the report For a New Vision of the Election Act.

"With your consent, we will publish your document on our website with information identifying its author (surname, first name, professional title and/or organization name, if applicable). If you do not consent to the distribution of your document, it will only be sent to Élections Québec staff.

"A context precedes each questionnaire. It allows you to access a summary of the chapter associated with the theme as well as the complete text. If you wish to complete the questionnaires, reading these documents is recommended, but optional."

The PMLQ submitted to the DGEQ its own opinions on the recommendations and a report of views presented at the roundtables it held. Six parties registered with the Quebec Electoral Commission also issued a joint statement, following the two roundtables they held to discuss the DGEQ's recommendations.

Now that the consultation period is over, the DGEQ is expected to produce a report on the consultations which will be submitted with recommendations for legislative changes to members of the National Assembly.

The document produced by the DGEQ is available here.

This article was published in
Volume 54 Number 4 - May 2024

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