I have to say that things just keep getting weirder in Quebec every day, especially if you are a democrat.
Yesterday, Premier Jean Charest announced that he was scrapping the electoral map drawn up by the independent Director General of Elections and effectively suspending the electoral laws in Quebec until he can figure out exactly what he wants.
The process of how the electoral map is to be drawn up, how the public is to be consulted, and how the new map is to be ratified in Quebec's National Assembly is clearly spelled out in the electoral law. It's just that Charest doesn't like or appreciate that the Director General of Elections, Marcel Blanchet, goes about doing his business in a law abiding fashion, which includes respecting the constitutional limits upheld by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with regard to the equality guarantees in the manner electoral systems advance and maintain each citizen's right to vote.
In short, Charest doesn't like the way the law and the jurisprudence surrounding the right to vote is written, so he unilaterally decided to scrap Quebec's electoral law, which in my opinion is a despotic act. It demonstrates a fundamental contempt for democracy and a belief that the state, c'est moi.
This farce has been going on ever since he took office. Leading up to the 2003 Quebec General Election, he promised to introduce elements of proportionality into the voting system. He led us to believe that change was in the works: draft legislation was introduced and a special commission was convened to consult the population. The only problem was that no one supported the proposed the model. So, to save face he asked Mr. Blanchet to prepare a report detailing how the model could be improved. However, he didn't like the findings of the Director General's report so it was released three days before Christmas and then properly buried.
Still required by law to produce a new electoral map -- in passing, approximately one in four ridings didn't conform to the electoral laws limits on the number of electors per riding when Charest decided to call a snap election in 2008 -- Mr. Blanchet set out to draw up a new map that would respect the constitutional limits of the number of electors per riding. Given the demographic shift away from the outlying regions towards the regions surrounding Montreal, the new map eliminated three ridings in the peripheral regions and added three to the more populous regions. Sounds fair to me even though I am dead set against the use of the present voting system.
But once again, Charest didn't want what the law prescribes, so he introduced legislation that would in effect create rotten boroughs in the outlying regions in which the weight of a vote cast in one of these ridings would be three to four times greater than a vote cast in a large suburban riding.
Fortunately, the opposition parties would have none of it and neither would Mr. Blanchet, who on a matter of principle resigned rather than bow down to the desires of the despot. Bravo Mr. Blanchet!
Yesterday, in a truly pathetic gesture Charest calls a press conference in which he paraded the members of a committee from the outlying regions in order to announce that he is temporarily suspending the present electoral law and will introduce a new one by March 15, 2011, taking advantage of the fact that Mr. Blanchet is out of the country and unavailable for comment.
Very well orchestrated, and the dance of the despot goes on.