Skip to content
Logo
Close
Understanding electoral maps

Creating electoral maps

Summary

The electoral map of Québec has 125 electoral divisions. The boundaries of these electoral divisions are established by the Commission de la représentation électorale.

Municipalities and English-language school boards are responsible for drawing up electoral maps for their respective municipal and school elections. Where necessary, the Commission de la représentation électorale may divide their territory for electoral purposes.

Provincial

In this section

The process for drawing up the electoral map

The Commission de la représentation électorale is responsible for drawing up the electoral map of Québec. The boundary delimitation must be reviewed every two general elections to ensure the effective representation of electors.

The adoption of an electoral map is carried out in four stages as defined in the Election Act. At certain stages, citizens, MNAs and organizations are invited to participate in the work of the Commission.

Video clip explaining the process for boundary delimitation (in French)

Stage 1: Initial delimitation proposal and preliminary report

The Commission de la représentation électorale will begin by preparing a preliminary report in which it formulates a proposal for the boundary delimitation. It will then submit the report to the President or the Secretary General of the Assemblée nationale. It is made public.

Stage 2: Public hearings

No later than six months after filing its preliminary report, the Commission de la représentation électorale shall hold public hearings in certain regions of Québec to hear the opinions of interested citizens, MNAs and organizations. This stage is crucial as public consultation allows the Commission to broaden its knowledge of the local area and communities. The preliminary report of the Commission is also submitted to the Committee on the Assemblée nationale for consideration.

The Commission de la représentation électorale then studies all the information gathered. It takes this data into account while maintaining respect for the criteria set out in the Election Act.

Step 3: Review of the second report in the Assemblée nationale

After having heard and reviewed the opinions presented by interested citizens, MNAs, and organizations, the Commission then tables a second report in the Assemblée nationale presenting its revised proposal for the boundary delimitation.

This report is then subject to a five-hour debate in the Assemblée nationale.

Step 4: Finalization of electoral division boundaries

Following the debate in the Assemblée nationale, the Commission establishes the boundaries of the electoral divisions and determines their respective names. The list of electoral divisions and the description of their territory are published in the Gazette officielle du Québec.

The new electoral map comes into effect when the legislature ends. If this period ends less than six months after the publication of the new electoral map in the Gazette officielle du Québec, the general election must be held on the basis of the previous electoral map.

Effective representation

Québec's electoral map is based on a fundamental democratic principle: the effective representation of electors. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized this principle in the early 1990s as a right guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Election Act provides rules that ensure the effective representation of electors, including criteria related to the equality of vote among electors and respect for natural communities.

Video clip explaining effective representation (in French only)

Equality of vote among electors

The criterion for equality of vote among electors is established by grouping together a roughly equal number of electors within each Québec electoral division. This ensures that the relative weight of an elector's vote is more or less the same, regardless of the electoral division. The Act specifies that the number of electors in an electoral division may not be less, or more than, 25% of the provincial average.

However, the Commission de la représentation électorale may establish an exceptional electoral division that does not meet the 25% criterion. The Commission will make this decision if it considers that compliance with this numerical criterion would not adequately achieve effective representation. In this case, the Commission must give reasons for its decision in writing.

The Election Act recognizes the “exceptional status” of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine electoral division. The Commission de la représentation électorale has no jurisdiction over the delineation of this electoral division.

Respect for natural communities

Under this second criterion, each electoral division represents a natural community based on demographic, geographic and sociological considerations. This criterion prompts the Commission de la représentation électorale to consider elements that include population density and growth; accessibility, area and configuration of the region; natural boundaries; and territories of local municipalities.

Naming electoral divisions

Electoral division names are part of the culture and history of the people. They must represent the places they designate and bear witness to our collective memory.

In accordance with the Election Act, the Commission de la représentation électorale is responsible for assigning a name to each electoral division. The Commission may proceed with the naming after obtaining the opinion of the Commission de toponymie du Québec.

Naming rules

Recognizing the importance of the names given to electoral divisions, the Commission de la représentation électorale uses three rules to evaluate the names it wishes to assign to electoral divisions. These rules are largely based on the standards of the Commission de toponymie du Québec.

  1. The first rule is the stability of the name of the electoral division. A name that is already in use should be prioritized, as it provides a better reference point than a new name. Electoral divisions whose boundaries are not changed tend to retain their names.
  2. The second rule provides that an electoral division whose territory is changed retains its name if the reasons for its name are still valid. For example, if the name of an electoral division refers to a geographical location (a river, a city, a mountain, etc.), it may remain the same if that location is still located, in whole or in part, in that electoral division.
  3. The third rule provides guidelines for the Commission to follow in selecting the name of a new electoral division or an electoral division whose boundaries have been sufficiently changed to warrant a new name. These guidelines are described below.

A unique name

The Commission prefers a name composed of a single toponym.

While the juxtaposition of place names is inevitable, the Commission attempts to limit itself to two elements. It favours names that are of an historical or heritage nature. In the case of the amalgamation of two electoral divisions, the Commission considers the juxtaposition of the names of the former electoral divisions in question to be acceptable—as long as these names do not already contain compound names.

Geographical references

The reference to a major natural geographic feature (lake, river, mountain, etc.) or to a major populated place (city) that is part of the electoral division is an important source of inspiration for the name of an electoral division.

Administrative references

The Commission does not favour the use of the name of an administrative entity (such as a municipality, regional county municipality, administrative region, etc.) to designate the electoral division in which it is located. When the boundaries of an electoral division change, it may require name changes.

Historical references

The Commission considers it appropriate to draw on the history and heritage of a community to name an electoral division. A name created from such sources must, however, be linked to the territory of the electoral division.

A tribute to people of note

An important person can be paid tribute to by having an electoral division named in their honour. This person must:

  • Have had an impact throughout Québec
  • Have a relation to the territory of the electoral division
  • Be deceased for at least one year

Origin and meaning of electoral division names

Other resources

Municipal

In this section

When establishing their electoral maps, municipalities must define the boundaries of their electoral districts. An electoral district is the municipal equivalent of a provincial electoral division. The electoral map of a municipality is therefore made up of several electoral districts, which contain approximately the same number of electors. In a municipal general election, voters cast their ballots for one of the people running for councillor in their electoral district.

When delimiting electoral districts, the municipal council must consider a series of elements related to the territory itself and the population of the municipality. It must ensure the fair and equitable representation of all electors. Each of the districts must be established in such a way that respects set criteria on the equality of the vote for all electors and natural communities.

The division of the territory of municipalities into electoral districts is governed by chapter III of Title I of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities (R.S.Q., c. E-2.2). The application of certain provisions of this chapter is the responsibility of the Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE).

The municipalities concerned

Municipalities that divide their territory into electoral districts are:

  • Municipalities with 20,000 inhabitants or more (which are required to do so)
  • Municipalities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants that voluntarily submit to this requirement

More than 260 municipalities will divide their territory into electoral districts for the 2021 general election.

Municipalities that voluntarily choose to divide their territory

Municipalities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants that wish to divide their territory into electoral districts can decide to do so voluntarily.

These municipalities must first adopt a by-law to decree the application of Chapters III and IV of Title I of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities. This is how a municipality decides that its territory will henceforth be divided into electoral districts. The by-law must come into force in the second year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held. The by-law shall be made public, and a copy shall be sent to the Commission de la représentation électorale.

The decision of a municipality with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants to divide its territory into electoral districts is revocable.

Advantages to delimitation

The division of the territory of a municipality into electoral districts has several advantages for the electors, for the elected persons and for the municipality.

For electors

The division of the territory of a municipality into electoral districts promotes a fair and balanced representation of electors and takes into account the territory’s natural communities.

In addition, it promotes citizen participation by strengthening the ties between the elected person and their electors.

The division into districts is reviewed and modified, where applicable, every four years to take into account the evolution of the population and natural communities in the area.

For elected officials

The division of the territory into electoral districts strengthens the ties between the elected person and their electors. It allows the councillor to develop a better knowledge of their district and its citizens.

For the municipality

The division of the territory of a municipality into electoral districts has advantages in terms of administration, time, and energy when holding electoral events. This significantly reduces the costs associated with such events.

The number of ballots given to electors is reduced in a general election, since electors vote only for the councillor in their electoral district, not for all councillor positions.

The division also makes it possible to reduce the number of ballot papers given to electors during a by-election since, on this occasion, only one district is subject to an election.

Boundary criteria

The number of electoral districts

The Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities states that a municipality should have between 6 and 90 electoral districts, depending on the size of its population.

A municipality may nevertheless apply to the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Habitation to establish a number of electoral districts different from that provided for in the Act.

Effective representation

The division of the territory for electoral purposes must respect a fundamental democratic principle–the effective representation of electors. The Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities provides a number of criteria to ensure this principle is adhered to. The equality of vote of the electors and respect for the natural communities constitute the two fundamental criteria enacted by the Act.

Equality of vote

The principle of equality of vote for electors provides that each electoral district has a roughly equal number of electors. This equality is relative, since deviations from the average number of electors per electoral district are permitted.

According to the Act, the difference between the number of electors in a district and the average number of electors per district must not be less than or more than:

  • 25% in municipalities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants
  • More than 15% in municipalities of 20,000 people or more

Respect for natural communities

The equality of the vote of the electors alone cannot guarantee effective representation. Districts should represent natural communities based on geographic, demographic, and socio-economic criteria.

Districts should be delimited in such a way as to ensure the greatest possible socio-economic homogeneity of each district, taking into account such criteria as physical barriers, demographic trends, borough boundaries, parish boundaries, area, and distance.

Stages of delineation

1. The draft by-law

The draft by-law must describe the boundaries of the proposed electoral districts, mention the number of electors included in each district, and include a map or a sketch of the proposed districts. The municipal council adopts the draft at the beginning of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held.

Within 15 days after the adoption of the draft division, the municipality must inform the public by publishing a notice.

Opposition to the draft division

The Act allows electors who oppose the draft division to express their disagreement.

They may make their objection known in writing to the person in charge of the clerk's office or the treasury of their municipality within 15 days after the publication of the notice.

If there is not enough opposition

If the number of persons objecting to the draft by-law does not reach the threshold established by the Act, the municipal council will adopt the boundaries given in the draft division.

If there is sufficient opposition

Sufficient opposition will be acknowledged if the number of persons objecting to the by-law is equal or greater to the number required by the Act. The municipality must then hold a public meeting at which the persons objecting can be heard.

2. Division by-law

Like the draft by-law, the division by-law must describe the boundaries of the proposed electoral districts, state the number of electors included in each district, and include a map or sketch of the proposed districts. The municipal council must adopt this by-law before June 1 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held.

If the municipality held a public meeting on the draft by-law, the municipal council will decide whether or not to amend the delimination provided for in the draft by-law. The bylaw is then adopted and published for public review.

Expressing opposition to the division by-law to the Commission de la représentation électorale

If a municipality was required to hold a public meeting on its proposed division into electoral districts, it will publish a by-law notice to inform the public of the changes (or lack of change) to the boundary delimitation proposal. This notice must be published within 15 days of the adoption of the by-law.

Electors who disagree with the boundary delimitation of districts provided for in the by-law may object by sending a petition or a letter to the Commission de la représentation électorale.

They have 15 days following the publication of the notice to make their objections known.

If there is not enough opposition

If the number of persons objecting to the by-law does not meet the threshold set out in the Act, the Commission de la représentation électorale will review the division by-law and approve or disapprove it.

If there is sufficient opposition

If the number of persons objecting to the by-law is equal to or greater than the number provided for in the Act, the Commission de la représentation électorale shall hold a public meeting at which it will hear the comments from electors, interested organizations, and the municipality.

In light of the representations heard and the documents filed, the Commission de la représentation électorale will decide whether it will support the division adopted by the municipal council or whether it will carry out the boundary delimitation itself.

3. Effective date of the by-law

The by-law dividing the municipality into electoral districts comes into force automatically on October 31 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held.

4. The division of the territory by the Commission de la représentation électorale

The CRE itself will divide the territory of the municipality into electoral districts:

  • When the municipality does not pass the by-law before June 1 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held
  • If, following a public meeting, it determines that the division adopted by the municipal council should not be applied

The division into electoral districts done by the CRE will become effective on the day of publication of the notice of its decision.

Renewal

A municipality may renew the electoral map that was used in the previous general election. The delimitation of its electoral districts, however, must meet the following conditions:

  • The number of electoral districts must respect the number prescribed in the Act according to the number of inhabitants of the municipality
  • Districts must respect the natural communities of the territory
  • The number of electors in each electoral district must not exceed the minimum and maximum limits set out in the Act in relation to the average number of electors per district

Confirmation from the Commission de la représentation électorale

The municipal council should seek confirmation from the CRE that it is eligible to renew its electoral map. It must send this request to the CRE before March 15 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held.

The division meets the established requirements

If the division of the municipality into electoral districts meets the required conditions, the CRE shall inform the municipality of this fact when it makes its decision. The municipality will then publish a notice informing electors that it wishes to renew its electoral map. This notice must be published within 15 days of receiving the CRE's decision.

The division does not meet the requirements

If the municipality's application for renewal does not meet the required conditions, the CRE will advise the municipality that it must follow the standard procedure and divide its territory into electoral districts.

Opposition to the renewal

Electors may object to the renewal of the electoral map of their municipality by writing to the person in charge of the office of the clerk or the treasurer of that municipality within 15 days after the publication of the notice.

If the number of persons objecting to the renewal is not sufficient, the electoral map shall be renewed.

If the number of persons objecting to the renewal is sufficient, the municipality will be required to follow the standard procedure for dividing its territory into electoral districts.

School

In this section

The English-language school board electoral boundaries in effect for the next school board general election were delimited in 2017.

The territory of each English-language school board is divided into electoral divisions for the purpose of electing commissioners. The responsibility for establishing the electoral map lies with the English-language school board, more specifically with its council of commissioners. The entire procedure is governed by chapter III of the Act respecting school elections to elect certain members of the boards of directors of English-language school service centres (R.S.Q., c. E-2.3). The application of certain provisions of this chapter is the responsibility of the Commission de la représentation électorale.

Given the ongoing court challenges, any reference to the Act respecting school elections to elect certain members of the boards of directors of English-language school service centres refers to the provisions of the School Elections Act in effect prior to the passage of Bill 40, which have been adapted to reflect the repeal of the election process in French-language school service centres.

Boundary delimitation criteria

Number of electoral divisions

The Act specifies that the number of electoral divisions varies from 7 to 12, depending on the total number of electors of the English-language school board. However, a request may be made to the Ministère de l'Éducation to create more divisions.

Effective representation

The division of the territory for electoral purposes must respect a fundamental democratic principle–the effective representation of electors. The Act respecting school elections to elect certain members of the boards of directors of English-language school service centres provides some rules to ensure this principle is respected. The equality of vote among electors and respect of the natural communities constitute the two fundamental criteria enacted by the Act.

Equality of vote

The equality of vote among electors is an important condition for effective representation. Each electoral division must have a roughly equal number of voters. This equality is relative, since deviations from the average number of voters per electoral division are permitted. The Act specifies that the number of electors in an electoral division may not be less, or more than, 25% of the provincial average.

Respect for natural communities

The electoral division must respect the natural communities established on the basis of geographical, demographic, and socio-economic criteria. The boundaries of the electoral divisions must therefore be drawn in such a way as to ensure the greatest possible socio-economic homogeneity within each division, taking into account such criteria as the location of the English-language school board's educational institutions, physical barriers, demographic trends, municipal boundaries, territorial contiguity, area, and distance. To the greatest extent possible, the electoral map must also take into consideration the population's sense of belonging to a community.

Stages of delimitation

Data transmission

Not later than February 15 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held, the Chief Electoral Officer shall forward to the English-language school board the official data on the number of electors. This data shall be used by English-language school board for the boundary delimitation.

The draft division

The council of commissioners of the English-language school board shall adopt a draft division of its territory into electoral divisions between February 16 and June 1 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held. Within 15 days of the adoption of the draft, the director general of the English-language school board shall publish the proposed division by a notice in a newspaper circulated in the territory of the school board.

Opposition to the draft division

Electors who are opposed to the draft division may express their disagreement. They have a period of 15 days following the publication of the proposal to make it known, in writing, to the director general of the English-language school board.

If there is not enough opposition to the draft division

If the number of persons objecting to the proposed division is less than the threshold provided for in the Act, the council of commissioners shall adopt the proposed delineation of the draft division. This step must be completed by December 31 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held. A copy of the division resolution must be sent to the Commission de la représentation électorale for approval.

If there is sufficient opposition to the draft division

If the number of persons objecting to the draft by-law is equal to or greater than the threshold prescribed by the Act, the council of commissioners shall hold a public meeting at which the persons objecting may be heard. Following this meeting, the council of commissioners may decide to modify or not the boundary delimitation provided for in its draft division.

The division resolution

The council of commissioners of the English-language school board shall adopt a division resolution before December 31 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held. The director general of the English-language school board shall forward a certified copy of the resolution without delay to the Commission de la représentation électorale.

Expressing opposition to the division resolution to the Commission de la représentation électorale

If the council of commissioners of the English-language school board held a public meeting on the draft division into electoral divisions, the director general of the English-language school board must publish a notice to inform the public of the changes (or lack thereof) to the proposed electoral boundaries. Electors then have a period of 15 days to express their opposition, this time by writing to the Commission de la représentation électorale.

If there is not sufficient opposition to the division resolution

If the number of persons objecting to the division resolution is less than the threshold provided for in the Act, the Commission de la représentation électorale shall review the division resolution and either approve or reject it.

If there is sufficient opposition to the division resolution

If the number of persons opposing the division resolution is equal to or greater than the threshold provided for in the Act, the Commission de la représentation électorale shall hold a public meeting during which it shall hear the representations of interested electors, organizations and the English-language school board.

In light of the representations heard and the documents filed, the Commission de la représentation électorale makes a final decision on the electoral map to be used. This map shall automatically enter into force on the day of publication of the decision.

The division of the territory by the Commission de la représentation électorale

The Commission de la représentation électorale itself divides the territory of an English-language school board into electoral divisions:

  • When the council of commissioners does not adopt the resolution of division before December 31 of the year preceding the year in which the general election is to be held
  • If, following a public meeting held by the Commission under the Act, the Commission deems that the division provided for by the resolution adopted by the council of commissioners should not be applied
  • When the Commission refuses to approve a delineation that deviates from the numerical criterion set out in the Act and determines that it must conduct the delineation itself

The entry into force of the division resolution

The resolution of division into electoral divisions adopted by the council of commissioners of the English-language school board automatically comes into force on March 31 of the year in which the general election is to be held. As for the delimitation into electoral divisions made by the Commission de la représentation électorale, it comes into force on the day of the publication of the notice by the latter.

Other resources

Was this page useful to you?

Please do not enter any personal information. If you would like a response, please contact us.