Montreal, October 2, 2001 - The Board of Trade has serious doubts about the logic of a proposal whose immediate result would be to unfairly reduce the political weight of the region that is the engine of Quebec's economic, cultural, and scientific development. This is how Mr. Guy Fréchette, incoming president of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, spoke of the new electoral boundaries for the Island of Montreal proposed by the Commission de la représentation électoral (CRE), during his inaugural address today.
In a letter delivered this morning to Mr. Guy Chevrette, Minister responsible for Electoral Reform, the new president of the Board of Trade explained that the CRE's proposal would eliminate three electoral districts on the Island of Montreal, thereby lowering the number of Montreal representatives in the National Assembly to 27. Given the current population of Montreal, this proposal would mean that Montreal's political weight would be 11.8% less than its demographic weight. This, in Mr. Fréchette's view, would be a very worrisome drop for the province's metropolis, especially if you consider that, on the proposed electoral map, each one of the Island of Montreal's electoral districts would have more voters than the provincial average, while more than 50% of those in other regions would have fewer voters than that same average.
The Board of Trade believes that the criteria underlying the development of the proposed electoral map particularly the allowable difference in the number of voters in each constituency of plus or minus 25% the provincial average should be reviewed. This standard, an integral component of the Election Act, has enabled the CRE to introduce a proposal creating a serious imbalance between Montreal and the other regions of Quebec an imbalance that will only increase as a result of demographic fluctuations expected over the next eight to ten years (the period during which the new map will be in effect.)
In his letter to Mr. Chevrette, the president of the Board of Trade also raised the question of exceptional cases. While the current electoral map includes just two constituencies where the number of voters falls below the 25% mark (Ungava and Îles-de-la-Madeleine), the new proposal would increase that number to six. The Board of Trade believes that by creating two categories of constituency in Quebec, this high number contributes to the inequity of the CRE proposal with regard to Montreal.
The Board of Trade therefore urges Mr. Chevrette to stay the adoption of the CRE's current proposal to allow a review of the criteria for drawing the electoral map. It suggests, moreover, that the maximum permissible difference be reduced to 5% to guarantee the more equitable representation of voters. This would ensure that the weight of any given vote would not depend on the region in which it was cast. For the same reason, the Board of Trade also asks that the number of exceptions be limited strictly to the two now recognized.
Quebec has just one great metropolis capable of making its influence felt on the world stage. It would be unjust and unwise not to grant that metropolis its full political representation. Montreal must contribute fully to the democratic process in Quebec, and, to that end, its population must be represented by an equitable number of elected members, concluded Mr. Fréchette in his letter to the Minister responsible for Electoral Reform.
The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal has more than 7 000 members. Its mission is to be the leading group representing the interests of the Greater Montreal business community. The objectives are to maintain, at all times, relevance to its membership, credibility towards the media and influence towards government and decision-makers.