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Legault forced to adapt the law to trigger an immigration referendum

Photo: Getty Images Before launching a sectoral referendum process, the CAQ government would be required to table a bill.

If he does indeed want to move forward with a sectoral referendum on immigration, François Legault will have no choice but to adapt the Law on Popular Consultation, which is “no longer up to date”, affirms Élections Québec.

In recent days, the Prime Minister has put back on the table the holding of a possible popular consultation on immigration powers. All this will depend, he says, on the results of discussions with his counterpart in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau, who has had a “deadline” imposed on him at the end of June.

However, before launching a sectoral referendum process, the CAQ government would be required to table a bill, indicated a spokesperson for the independent organization, Julie St-Arnaud Drolet, in an email exchange with Le Devoir, Wednesday. “The Law on Popular Consultation, which specifies how the Electoral Law must be adapted to the holding of a referendum, is no longer up to date. A new legal framework should therefore be established,” she wrote.

Last amended in 2001, the Popular Consultation Act establishes on paper how a referendum process will operate. It does not take into account the modifications made since then to political financing or to the functioning of voting on campuses, recalls Élections Québec.

For example, it provides that the total contributions of a voter “cannot exceed, during the same referendum […], the sum of $3,000 to each of the national committees”. In comparison, since 2013, the Election Act has set the maximum annual contribution at $100, except for an election year ($200).

The current legal framework also makes no mention of a “sectoral referendum”, clarified Ms. St-Arnaud Drolet on Tuesday. “The Law provides that the government can consult voters by referendum on a question approved by the National Assembly or on a bill,” she wrote.

On Wednesday morning, however, the Parti Québécois had already begun to draw the outlines of a Yes camp. “There is a final meeting with Justin Trudeau [on June 30]. I ask the Prime Minister to commit […], if for the umpteenth time the door closes in his face, to trigger this popular consultation on the repatriation of full immigration powers. In which case, I will be at his side,” said his boss, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.

Québec solidaire does not believe it is necessary to side with one side or another, because “the Prime Minister […] is not even using all the powers to which he has access at the moment” , pleaded the political party on Wednesday. The Liberal Party of Quebec opposes the repatriation of all immigration powers, as requested by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).

The government has not ruled out anything so far. “It will depend on the results of the discussions,” said Prime Minister François Legault on Tuesday.

A referendum and an election on the same day ?

The last referendum proposed by the CAQ dates back to 2019. Minister Sonia LeBel then proposed that the reform of the voting method that her party was proposing be subject to popular consultation at the time of the 2022 election The reform was finally abandoned, because “it does not interest the population, apart from a few intellectuals”, François Legault finally argued.

As part of the consultations on the reform project, however, the Director General of Elections of Quebec (DGEQ) encouraged Quebec to reopen the Popular Consultation Act.

“This law excludes the possibility of holding a referendum at the same time as an electoral event,” he wrote in his memorandum submitted to parliamentarians. “It also provides that the elected representatives of the National Assembly constitute the referendum camps. Since the referendum on the voting method would be held at the same time as a general election, adaptations had to be made to the Act. »

Since its founding in 1945, the DGEQ has administered three referendum campaigns: that on the Charlottetown Accord in 1992, as well as the two campaigns on Quebec sovereignty.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116