Proportional representation wouldn’t serve Quebec’s North: Nunavik MNA
"Inuit deserve to be better represented than that"
Inuit stand to lose the most in a plan to revamp Quebec’s electoral system, says the member of the National Assembly who represents Nunavik.
Earlier this month, Quebec’s opposition parties agreed to table a bill following the next provincial election—currently set for Oct. 1—that would implement proportional representation.
Under the proposal, the number of Quebec ridings would drop from 125 to 75, each of which would elect a member to the National Assembly, plus 50 additional seats to be allocated on the basis of a second vote.
“According to the actual formula that’s been proposed, it seems to be equitable,” said Jean Boucher, the Liberal MNA for Ungava. “Except that, in fact, it weakens the region.”
Under the proposed model, Nunavik’s riding of Ungava and neighbouring Abitibi-Est would be amalgamated.
“It will centralize the government in our larger centres, like Quebec City and Montreal,” Boucher said. “And it reduces the political weight of the Inuit and Cree in the National Assembly. Inuit deserve to be better represented than that.”
By land mass, Ungava is the largest riding in Quebec at roughly 800,000 square kilometres, stretching from its major centre, Chibougamau to the south, to northwest along James Bay’s Eeyou Itschee region and north to Nunavik.
Boucher said he already struggles to divide his time between the riding’s three distinct regions, and he doesn’t receive the budget he says is needed to visit all of Ungava’s communities.
If the riding was expanded to include Val d’Or and other larger centres, Boucher fears that would mean the elected representative would have even less time to connect with constituents.
With Nunavik communities being the most remote in Quebec and only accessible by air, Boucher said the region stands to lose the most contact with its representative if the riding is expanded.
“It took me three years of negotiations at the National Assembly just to get the budget to open a constituency office in Kuujjuaq,” he said of his office, which opened in mid-2017.
What’s more, Nunavik’s leadership has for years called for the region to form its own riding, to represent Inuit interests in the National Assembly.
Earlier this year, Kativik Regional Government representatives told Election Quebec officials that the absence of Inuit representation in Quebec politics could likely explain the region’s low voter turnout.
“Under this model, we can’t say that Inuit are going to be better represented at the National Assembly,” Boucher said. “We’re moving even farther away from that.”
An organization called Mouvement démocratie nouvelle (Movement for New Democracy) has lobbied for years for a shift towards proportional representation.
Following a series of consultations the organization led last year, it drafted an agreement to work towards a reform alongside Quebec’s opposition parties: the Parti Québécois, Coalition avenir Québec, Québec Solidaire and the Green Party of Quebec.
The parties have committed to table a bill no later than Oct. 1, 2019 to implement a mixed-member proportional representational system which would include regional lists.
But under the province’s current electoral system, those four parties combined would need to win at least half of the seats at the National Assembly to proceed with the legislation.
The goal of the reforms is to overhaul a system that often elects a party to govern with only a minority vote. Quebec’s current Liberal government, for example, was elected as a majority government in 2014 with only 41.5 per cent of vote.
Boucher, first elected MNA in the last provincial election, intends to run to represent Ungava again Oct. 1.
If re-elected, he said he will push even harder for a budget that allows him to visit his riding’s communities on a more regular basis.