Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Quebec Municipal Mergers/Demergers ~ Assignment

250-word write-up on Quebec municipal mergers/demergers

Sikander Ziad Hashmi
Jour 201, Concordia University

In January 2002, 212 Quebec municipalities were forced to merge into 42 new cities by the then-PQ government.

Referred to as ‘forced fusions’ by opponents, the move was opposed by many who thought the level of services they were receiving would diminish as a result of larger municipalities. Proponents predicted savings due to amalgamation of duplicate administrative positions and coordination of services.

The government’s move was unpopular, as was demonstrated by the defeat of the PQ at the hands of Jean Charest and the Liberals in April of 2003. Although he had supported the mergers, Charest had promised to hold ‘demerger’ referendums to give citizens a chance to reclaim their former cities.

After seven months, the government passed Bill 9 and set the rules for demerger. It called for a minimum of 10 percent of eligible voters to sign a register in a (former) municipality to trigger a referendum. 89 former municipalities garnered enough signatures to hold a vote. The referendum was set for June 20, 2004.

In the vote, 32 former municipalities (15 in Montreal) voted to demerge, despite the tough conditions laid out in Bill 9. Instead of a 50 per cent plus 1 formula to decide the winner, the bill stated that for a former municipality to demerge from the megacity, more ‘yes’ votes must be cast and their number must be equal to or greater than 35 per cent of eligible voters.

Although Charest had warned that the municipalities would not go back to their former state, break-up negotiations are now on-going and the demergers will become reality on January 1, 2006.


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