The Parti Quebecois is asking Quebec’s chief electoral officer to take action in order to prevent the upcoming provincial vote from being “stolen by the people from Ontario and the rest of Canada.”
PQ candidates Nicole Leger, Leo Bureau-Blouin and Bertrand St-Arnaud held a news conference Sunday morning following reports from Montreal newspapers suggesting that anglophone and allophone Quebecers who are ineligible to vote in Quebec provincial elections are trying to get on the list. The belief is that many of the new voters are university students attending English-speaking schools, such as McGill and Concordia, from outside the province.
“Quebec voters cannot have these elections stolen from them,” Leger said. “We are asking the chief electoral officer to ensure the integrity of the electoral process, because at this moment, we are greatly concerned.”
The controversy began when the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir published an article Saturday which quoted Mathieu Vandal, an electoral officer, voicing concerns about the amount of non-francophones trying to register as first-time voters in a downtown Montreal riding.
“It’s as if (Montreal’s) Trudeau International Airport was wide open and we distributed free visas to anyone who came through, without question,” Vandal told Le Devoir.
Vandal resigned on Friday, saying he couldn’t guarantee that new voters have lived in Quebec for more than the required minimum of six months.
On Saturday, PQ leader Pauline Marois also said she was concerned by the situation and called on the chief electoral office to look into the issue.
“This coming week will be crucial for democracy,” St-Arnaud said at Sunday’s news conference. “What has been mentioned in the last hours and again this morning in newspapers is very, very worrying.”
“Will the Quebec election be stolen by the people from Ontario, by the rest of Canada?” he asked.
Leger added that the chief electoral office issues an electoral list several times a year. “The list of voters for this election period was already ready, so how is it that there are certain mass movements in certain ridings? We are worried that this isn’t a normal situation.”
Bureau-Bloin echoed Leger’s words, adding that he wants to “make sure that it’s Quebecers who choose their government, and we think that it’s the responsibility of the chief electoral office to make sure that’s the case.”
Chief Electoral Officer Jacques Droin issued a statement on Saturday, saying there had been a “misconception on the part of some people regarding the procedure used to revise the list of electors.”
Droin said that qualified electors must be at least 18 years old, a Canadian citizen, and have been living in Quebec for at least six months.
“However, the notion of domicile can be complex, and questions may be raised as to its interpretation,” he wrote.