The province of Québec is divided into electoral divisions on the basis of precise criteria defined in the Election Act to ensure, among other things, that the vote of each elector has equal weight. The Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE), a permanent and independent commission, is responsible for applying this part of the Election Act.
The CRE has decision-making authority and acts neutrally and impartially. To do so, it must revise the electoral division boundaries after two consecutive general elections have been held. This was not always the case.
Therefore, to demonstrate the importance of this aspect of democracy and its development over the years, the CRE has prepared a table of highlights in the history of the electoral map of Québec from its origins in 1792 to the present.
First electoral map of Québec (Lower Canada).
Pursuant to section XIV of the Constitution Act, 1791, Lieutenant Governor Alured Clarke established 27 electoral divisions that would elect 50 representatives. This territorial division, which was not based on any standard, remained in effect until 1829.
This time, the map was delimited by legislative, rather than executive, authority. As a result of the representation standards introduced into the delimitation, each electoral division was required to be represented in provincial parliament by one member if it had a population of one thousand souls and by two members if it had a population of four thousand souls. A population of under one thousand souls was required to form part of the neighbouring division with the smallest number of souls. The new map had 46 electoral divisions entitled to elect 84 representatives.
The Act of Union established important changes in the electoral representation of Lower Canada. Upper Canada and Lower Canada were each entitled to elect 42 representatives under the same legislature. Each electoral division was represented by one member, except for the cities of Montreal and Quebec, which each retained two representatives. This delimitation was hardly methodical and led to arbitrariness, section 21 of the Act of Union giving Governor Lord Sydenham the authority to establish the boundaries of the cities of Montreal and Quebec and the towns of Three Rivers and Sherbrooke for electoral purposes — clearly a step backward from the 1829 delimitation.
In 1867, with the proclamation of the British North America Act (BNAA), Québec recovered its own parliamentary institutions. The Legislative Assembly was henceforth entitled to delimit the province’s electoral divisions. However, under section 80 of the BNAA, 12 electoral divisions were “protected” and could not be altered without the agreement of the absolute majority of their representatives.
Québec’s electoral map underwent many changes between the time the province entered Confederation and 1960. The most significant changes were made in 1890, 1895, 1912, 1922, 1930, 1939, 1944, 1945, 1954, and 1960. During this period, the number of electoral divisions increased from 65 to 95. In addition, the electoral divisions continued to be delimited by the Legislative Assembly.
On January 15, 1962, a committee formed of non-parliamentary experts, chaired by Mr. Fernand Grenier, was commissioned by the government to perform a preliminary study to the electoral map revision. The committee filed the so-called “Grenier Report,” which contained several important measures to improve the electoral map revision process, including criteria for the delimitation of electoral divisions and the recommendation to entrust this responsibility to an independent body.
For the first time, our electoral map was designed by an independent commission of the Legislative Assembly. Thirteen new electoral divisions were created, for a total of 108. Two general elections, in 1966 and 1970, were held on the basis of the map drawn up in 1965.
Section 80 of the British North America Act, which had permitted the existence of “protected counties” since 1867, was abolished.
The Standing Commission on Reform of the Electoral Districts (SCRED) was formed. An advisory body responsible for delimiting electoral districts according to certain criteria established by law, the SCRED was composed of the chief electoral officer and two other members appointed by the National Assembly, upon motion of the premier.
A new delimitation of the map was carried out by the SCRED. The resulting map consisted of 110 electoral divisions. The general elections of 1973 and 1976, as well as the referendum of 1980, were held on the basis of this map.
Responsibility for applying certain legal provisions concerning the delimitation of municipal electoral districts was entrusted to the SCRED.
The Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE), a new body vested with decision making authority, was formed for the purpose of determining electoral divisions on the basis of new delimitation criteria and the principle that the vote of each elector has equal weight. The CRE was also responsible for naming the electoral divisions after seeking the advice of the Commission de toponymie. At the time, the CRE was composed of the director general for representation and two commissioners, one of whom could be the chief electoral officer.
Mechanisms by which to consult representatives, citizens and bodies concerned with the delimitation of electoral divisions were implemented.
A new electoral map was delimited by the CRE. The number of electoral divisions increased from 110 to 122. The general elections of 1981 were held on the basis of this new map.
Since January 1, 1983, the CRE has been composed of the chief electoral officer, who is also ex officio chairman, and two commissioners appointed by the National Assembly upon motion of the premier, approved by two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly. The Directeur général des élections du Québec provides professional and technical support to the CRE.
A new electoral map, maintaining 122 electoral divisions, was adopted. The 1985 general elections were held on the basis of this map.
The Act respecting electoral representation established that there would be no fewer than 122 and no more than 125 electoral divisions. In addition, the number of electors per electoral division was determined in accordance with the quotient obtained by dividing the total number of electors by the number of electoral divisions, and was no longer set out in the law.
A new electoral map, consisting of 125 electoral divisions, was adopted. The 1989 general elections and the 1992 referendum were held on the basis of this map.
The Act respecting electoral representation was replaced by the new Election Act, R.S.Q., c. E-3.3.
Following a judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada, the new principle of “effective representation” was incorporated into the legislation to guide the delimitation of electoral divisions.
In addition, the delimitation of electoral divisions was made after the second general election following the last delimitation.
A new electoral map was adopted. It kept the number of electoral divisions at 125. This map was used to hold the 1994 and 1998 general elections, as well as the 1995 referendum.
A new electoral map was adopted. It has 125 electoral divisions. Having entered into force on March 12, 2003, it was used for the holding of the April 14, 2003, March 26, 2007 and December 8, 2008 general elections.
A new electoral map has been adopted. It has 125 electoral divisions of which 86 have had their boundaries modified. It entered into force on August 1, 2012, with the calling of the first general election in which it will be used: the election of September 4, 2012.
|Year of establishment of the electoral map||Number of electoral divisions||Electoral events|
|1945||92||General elections of 1948 and 1952|
|1954||93||General election of 1956|
|1960||95||General elections of 1960 and 1962|
|1965||108||General elections of 1966 and 1970|
|1972||110||General Elections of 1973, 1976
and referendum of 1980
|1980||122||General election 1981|
|1985||122||General election 1985|
|1988||125||General election of 1989 and
|1992||125||General elections of 1994, 1998
and referendum of 1995
|2001||125||General election of 2003, 2007 and 2008|
|2011||125||General election of September 4, 2012|
COMMISSION PERMANENTE DE LA RÉFORME DES DISTRICTS ÉLECTORAUX. Rapport de la Commission permanente de la réforme des districts électoraux, Québec, mars 1972, 226 p.
DIRECTEUR GÉNÉRAL DES ÉLECTIONS DU QUÉBEC. Cinquante ans au cœur de la démocratie : Le Directeur général des élections et l’évolution de la législation électorale de 1945 à 1995, Sainte-Foy, Études électorales, juin 1996, 53 p.
DIRECTEUR GÉNÉRAL DES ÉLECTIONS DU QUÉBEC. La toponymie électorale au fil de l’histoire de la carte électorale du Québec, Sainte-Foy, Études électorales, 1985, 157 p.