Forcing turncoats to pay for byelections makes sense

Marc Lalonde
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PQ proposal would keep politicians tied to party that got them elected, or make them pay up

editorial

A new PQ proposal that would force an MNA who wishes to change parties during their mandate to sit as an independent for the remainder of that mandate – and if the candidate doesn't want to wait that long, to force them to pay for the costs of a by-election out of their own pockets is one that we actually agree with.

The proposal is the second of two bills that have come out of the government's new Democractic Institutions Ministry – the first being that MNAs who quit before their mandate is up would not have full access to pensions – and it's hard to get over the fact this is one PQ proposal that actually makes sense, given the way MNAs outside Montreal have switched parties without considering their voters' wishes in the past few years. Concrete examples include the desertion of the crumbling Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) in 2011 and the exodus from the PQ to the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) last spring and summer in the run-up to the Sept. 4 provincial election.

The proposed law would have next to no effect on West Island MNAs; locals are elected on being Liberals, and if, say, Yolande James were to jump to the PQ tomorrow, it's hard to find a case for it being a product of her constituents' wishes. In fact, it's hard to conceive of a less-likely scenario. For other ridings outside of Montreal, though, political leanings aren't always so cut and dry, so penalizing an MNA for jumping prematurely actually has some merit over here. An elected official jumping parties is electoral fraud of the highest order, given that voters can only cast ballots based on the facts they are presented at election time. An MNA jumping ship is a little like a grocer coming to your house in the winter and saying those steaks you bought to grill last summer have gone up 1,000 per cent, and can you possibly pay in cash?

It's not fair, and it's not right, and as much as the PQ has come under fire in these pages – and rightfully so. Some of their proposed moves have been as well-thought-out as New Coke. Moving the Lachine hospital out from under the supervision of the McGill University Health Centre this week is another example of the government's cluelessness.

Giving MNAs some sense of accountability to the electorate is a good step in the right direction in terms of giving voters a sense of control of their representation. The only time an average voter can make their opinion felt is on election day, and after that, an MNA is no longer beholden to those who elected them. This notion would remedy that, and give Quebecers a little more stability in their representation.

Organizations: PQ, Action Democratique du Quebec, Democractic Institutions Ministry Lachine hospital McGill University Health Centre

Geographic location: Montreal

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