The 2022 Provincial Election Results: Highlighting A Broken Electoral System
A mere ten minutes after polls closed across the province, political analysts confirmed that the Coalition Avenir Québec would form a majority government. Similarly, in the weeks leading up to the provincial election, polls and experts predicted that the CAQ would crush all other parties in a landslide victory - and they certainly did. The required number of candidates to form a majority government at the National Assembly is 63, and on October 3rd, voters elected 90 candidates from the CAQ out of the 125 available seats.
CAQ leader François Legault and Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, won their respective ridings of L’Assomption and Gouin with nearly 60% of the votes. Manon Massé, the other co-spokesperson of Québec Solidaire, won her riding of Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques with approximately half of the votes. Leader of Parti Québécois Paul St-Pierre Plamondon won his riding of Camille-Laurin with just over 40% percent of the votes. Dominique Anglade, the leader of the Parti libéral du Québec and the official leader of the opposition, won her riding of Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne with just over a third of the votes. However, Parti conservateur du Québec leader Éric Duhaime lost the riding of Chauveau to a CAQ candidate, and is the only leader of the six main leaders who was not elected.
The CAQ experienced a 16 seat increase from the previous election and will form a supermajority government, brandishing the ultimate, unopposed power. The PLQ suffered a loss of 10 seats and are going to the National Assembly with 21 MNAs. QS saw an increase of 1 seat, resulting in 11 MNAs, while the PQ lost 7 seats, and were reduced to only 3 MNAs. Although the PCQ did not gather any seats this election, their popularity increased exponentially, and they amassed approximately 500,000 more votes than in the previous election.
Québec is known for its high voter turnout rates and this election was no exception : voter turnout remained the same as in 2018, and around 66% of the electorate participated. However, if anything is to be learned from the results of the provincial election, it’s to highlight how broken the current electoral system is. Aside from it undemocratically representing the electorate, it is a threat to our democracy.
Québec’s electoral system entails the use of a single member, single plurality electoral system, widely known as the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. Essentially, political party candidates run in specific electoral ridings, and are elected after they have garnered the most votes in that riding.
In all electoral ridings, multiple candidates run for power. Given that a majority is not needed, it is oftentimes a matter of a couple votes which separates the winning and losing candidates in a given electoral riding. Furthermore, given that the FPTP system crowns one winner, this imparts the voter with a feeling of underrepresentation in the event that their vote did not choose the winner, in addition to an incentive to vote strategically. How can a “democratic” system, which is predicated on the basis of ensuring formal equality through democratic representation, fulfill the promise by not fully representing the entirety of the electorate?
Coordinator of the Law, Society and Justice profile and esteemed political science professor, Dr. Dónal Gill posits, “the election results demonstrate a stark division between the island of Montreal and the rest of the province of Québec ''. Two weeks before the provincial election, Gill worked tirelessly alongside Diana Rice and the DSU’s Vice-President of External Affairs to organize a provincial election candidate debate at Dawson. In attendance were candidates from the PCQ, Bloc Montréal, QS, Canadian Party of Québec, Parti vert du Québec and the PLQ. However, both candidates from the PQ and the CAQ declined the offer. The CAQ’s lack of campaign in the city was reflected in the results: the CAQ collected their seats from the rural and suburban ridings of the province, yet still managed to infiltrate the island in the ridings of Pointe-Aux-Trembles and Anjou-Louis-Riel. Nevertheless, the island remains historically dominated by the PLQ. According to Gill, although certain ridings in Montreal remained the territory of the Liberals, the PLQ lost the voter turnout support of Anglophones in historically Liberal ridings. This can be attributed to the PLQ’s response to Bill 96, which imparted the Anglophone community with a feeling of betrayal and unsettlement.
Gill asserts an inconsistency with the FPTP system in Québec politics: provided that the CAQ accumulates their popularity from the suburbs, they should have no say in matters relating to the city. However the CAQ government has tabled and implemented legislation such as Bills 21 and 96, which both serve to discriminate on the basis of language, ethnicity and religion. Due to seat distribution, Montreal does not stand a chance to revoke or vote against the legislation which specifically targets their demographic. Although most members of the city have demonstrated a strong opposition to Bills 21 and 96, the CAQ’s power overrides this. This begs the question: why does the ideological separation and strong opposition to the CAQ in Montreal translate into the implementation of their policies?
However, the biggest flaw and critique of the FPTP system is the disproportionate representation that results. According to our trusted expert Gill, a serious disparity is exhibited by dividing the amount of votes cast for a specific party, by the number of elected candidates from that party. Applying this formula to the 2022 election results entails three of the five major parties being disproportionately represented.
The Montreal Gazette compiled a bar graph to depict the inadequacies of the FPTP system in the 2022 Québec elections. The CAQ received 72% of the seats by only receiving around 41% of the popular vote, while the PLQ received 16.8% of the seats by receiving 14.4% of the vote. QS maintained the second highest percentage of the vote share with 15.4%, yet only received 8.8% of the seats at the National Assembly. Moreover, the PQ gathered 14.6% of the popular vote and were the third most popular party, yet only received 2.4% of the seats at the National Assembly. Lastly, the PCQ were the fifth most popular party, and received 12.9% of the popular vote, yet they did not receive any seats at the National Assembly. Astonishingly, the PLQ became the official opposition party, while their percentage of the vote share is equivalent to the third party of the opposition, and the fourth most popular party. Ultimately, the disproportionate relationship between the popular vote and number of seats is a key takeaway from this election.
Whether it be during the provincial or federal elections, electoral reform has been addressed multiple times during the campaigning period. It began when Trudeau had promised electoral reform during his campaign in the 2015 federal elections. Legault had also promised to reform the electoral system during their campaign in the 2018 provincial election, citing that the system was “broken”. However, Trudeau and Legault have yet to deliver on the promise to reform the FPTP system. Indeed, during their first mandate, the CAQ had proposed legislation to reform the electoral system into a mixed member proportional representation system, which would have proportionally distributed 45 seats out of the 125. However, the bill never came to fruition. The unfulfilled promises to reform the electoral system can be attributed to the fact that political leaders thrive on power, and it would not make sense to reform the system which put them into power.
An alternative to the FPTP system is the proportional representation (PR) system,which strives to equally represent the electorate. PR would assign each party an amount of seats at the National Assembly based on their share of the popular vote. However, the fear of extremist and fringe parties getting a voice has acted as a deterrent to lawmakers from tabling legislation to adopt the system.
For students who feel passionately about the prospect of electoral reform, Gill adds on: “There are many civil society organizations like Fair Vote Canada and the Broadbent Institute, which are working to push for electoral reform, not just in Québec, but in all of Canada.” Gill continues: “Students can get involved in those organizations if they wish to see electoral reform.”
Despite the blatantly undemocratic representation synonymous with the results of 2022 Québec elections, many are still in support of the first-past-the-post system, often citing its convenience and convention. As misrepresented as the electorate may be, the CAQ will lead Québec for another four-year mandate.