Quebec electoral map reform a cause of worry for D’Arcy-McGee MNA

D'Arcy-McGee MNA David Birnbaum is concerned the proposed electoral map reforms will dilute the value of his constituent's vote, Thursday, September 15, 2016. Global News

David Birnbaum, the Member of the National Assembly for the riding of D’Arcy McGee, is calling out the commission for electoral representation.

The commission has proposed merging the provincial ridings of Mont-Royal and Outremont, as well as re-drawing the borders of D’Arcy McGee.

He said he’s concerned the proposed reforms would dilute the value of his electorate’s vote.

“It’s my view, for a number of reasons, that the merging of Mont-Royal and Outremont is absolutely ill-designed and contrary to democratic principles that this commission is suppose to be respecting,” said Birnbaum.

He testified in front of the commission in Quebec City on Thursday.

Redrawing the boundaries of D’Arcy McGee, which currently encompasses Hampstead, Côte Saint-Luc and a small part of NDG, would mean adding the Snowdon district and roughly one-third of Côte-des-Neiges.

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That means 14,000 new voters.

“The effects of this will be to lessen the democratic weight of three natural communities that I have the pleasure of serving,” said Birnbaum.

“And that is part of democracy, protecting those natural communities.”

Forty-three per cent of the riding’s residents are Jewish, 61 per cent are Anglophones and seniors represent 22 per cent of the population, according to statistics from Elections Quebec.

“What that means is that their access to democracy as members of a natural community is compromised and their right to vote is suddenly not worth what it was before,” said Birnbaum.

The mayor of Hampstead, Bill Steinberg, also views the potential reform as a step in the wrong direction.

The council for the Town of Hampstead passed a resolution in January, denouncing any changes to the D’Arcy McGee riding.

“If you have 100 people in D’Arcy McGee electing – just to use a number – a representative and you have only 50 people in a far-flung rural riding electing a representative, then the people in that rural riding have twice the clout as we do in our riding,” said Steinberg.

“And that’s what’s wrong.”

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Reforming the electoral map would also affect the Hasidic Jewish community in Outremont.

Part of the potential new boundary would be part of the Mercier riding, according to Birnbaum.

That has members of the Hasidic community upset.

“You have, in the Outremont proposal, a Hassidic community that is split up,” said Birnbaum.

“That’s a natural community with a long history in Outremont and to have part of it affiliated with Mercier, where there are no institutions or traditions affiliated with that community again, runs counter to one of the democratic principles that this map is suppose to be about.”

By merging the ridings of Mont-Royal and Outremont, the population of potential electors from the district becomes 55,989, 15.7 per cent above the provincial average of  47,198.

Birnbaum’s office points out that the commission for electoral representation is an administrative body, which reports to Elections Quebec.

Current laws allow for 125 electoral divisions.

The new map will be in place for the 2018 election.

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