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The 35% rule

Demerger activists in cities that lost their bids due to the 35% rule are decrying it as undemocratic:


That’s how Michael Vadacchino felt about the result of last night’s demerger referendum in LaSalle.

Vadacchino, a borough councillor and leader of the demerger committee, said the system implemented for the referendum vote was completely undemocratic.

[. . . ]

But getting 35 per cent of people to vote at all, let alone the same way, isn’t easy, he said.

“They made the barrier so high, they knew it would be as difficult as possible to achieve.”

LaSalle voted 60% in favour of demerger, but those 60% of votes represented only 20% of all registered voters. People who stayed home, were out of town, or who moved away or even passed away and didn’t get their named removed from the heavily-padded lists, all counted as automatic “no” votes under the 35% rule.

In the other Montreal sectors where demerger failed, the result was even closer. Anjou and Ste-Genevieve are bitter about the 35% rule as well. In Saint-Laurent, 75% of the votes cast were for the Yes side, but they represented only 28.5% of registered voters. Pierrefonds also voted over 70% “Yes”. And Roxboro and Ile-Bizard both lost by razor-thin margins.

The 35% rule was designed as an added hoop for demergerites to jump through before they could get their cities back. But despite that, I’m starting to re-examine it with interest.

Maybe – just maybe – it’s not such a bad idea after all. In fact, I think we ought to immediately apply this rule to all Montreal municipal and provincial elections from now on.

That means that Gerard Tremblay would have to get 35% of all registered voters in Montreal to turn out and vote for him in the next election. No simple majorities for you, M. Tremblay. And Jean Charest would need 35% of all Quebeckers of voting age to turn out and vote for him before he could get back into office.

With this rule, we could ensure that no politican ever got elected to any office… ever again.

A world without politicians? Sounds pretty good to me.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • josh 06.22.04, 9:01 AM

    And people claim that Canada is a great democracy?
    How can you have an election/referendum where one side has to vote, and the other side can win by just staying home?
    It seems the best strategy for the no side was to pursuade people to stay home. In CSL and elsewhere ‘demerger’ won, the people who voted ‘no’ actually hurt their cause.
    I hope ‘your’ justice system is better than the government.

  • Knave 06.22.04, 7:21 PM

    It seems the best strategy for the no side was to pursuade people to stay home. In CSL and elsewhere ‘demerger’ won, the people who voted ‘no’ actually hurt their cause.

    No. That is simply not true.

    35% of registered voters had to vote Yes. This was not a quorum situation where you needed 35% of voters to vote. You needed 35% of the population to vote yes.

    If anything, this misconception probably helped the “Yes” side, since many “No” voters would have stayed home out of fear of helping the opposition.

  • Knave 06.22.04, 7:23 PM


    The 35% rule is actually fairly solid when it comes to referendums that will change the status quo. An election is a different matter entirely.

    In Universities, they will often bring in new fees that support some new club by getting 1% of the students to vote yes while 0.9% vote no. Having a minimum percentage of all voters vote “yes” in order to change the status quo seems very reasonable.

  • segacs 06.22.04, 7:34 PM

    They didn’t let us vote to change the status quo. They imposed the change in status quo. The vote was to partially restore the previous status quo.

  • Knave 06.23.04, 3:17 AM

    Is a vote to criminalize abortion in Canada a vote re-establish the previous status quo?

    How about a vote to abolish the Charter?

    The status quo is whatever exists at the moment. Governments don’t need to hold referendums… they can just legislate. However, if they are going to hold the referendum, then it should be biased in favour of maintaining the current set of conditions, whatever those happen to be.

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