The Quebec premier has challenged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure that the province does not lose a seat in the planned redistribution of parliamentary ridings in Canada.
François Legault said that, following the recognition of Quebec as a nation by Parliament, ensuring it does not lose political representation in Ottawa is a "test" for Trudeau.
His challenge to the prime minister to protect Quebec's political influence in Parliament follows Elections Canada's plans to strip the province of an MP in the House of Commons.
Quebec is the only province set to lose a seat in the proposed redistribution of seats, based on population.
Speaking at a news conference in L'Assomption, Que. on Friday, Legault said: "It’s a test for Justin Trudeau, because it’s nice to recognize that Quebec is a nation, but now there has to be an effect."
"I think the nation of Quebec deserves a certain level of representation in the House of Commons, regardless of the evolution of the number of inhabitants in each province.”
Elections Canada said the chief electoral officer of Canada calculated the redistribution of seats in an independent and non-partisan manner, applying a formula set out in the Constitution.
It said, in a statement, that the calculation was "mathematical" and the chief electoral officer "exercises no discretionary authority" over how many Commons seats would be allocated to each province.
Overall, the number of seats in the House of Commons will increase by four, to account for population changes, under plans published this month by Elections Canada.
The review, which follows the census, will increase the number of MPs from 338 to 342.
But Quebec’s 78 MPs will be reduced to 77 — the first time since 1966 that a province has lost a seat during redistribution.
Alberta is gaining three more seats, Ontario one and B.C. one, while other provinces and territories will keep the same number of MPs.
The next step will be for three-member commissions in each province — which don't include elected officials — to draw up proposed boundaries. MPs can provide input on the proposed boundaries, but the commissions are not obliged to make changes based on their comments, Elections Canada says.
Legault's comments came as Yves-François Blanchet, the Bloc Québécois leader, insisted that Quebec gain an extra seat in Ottawa.
Blanchet said Elections Canada's plan to strip Quebec of an MP fails to acknowledge Quebec's official status as a nation and would reduce the power of Quebecers.
Blanchet said Quebec should have 79 MPs, not 77.
"On June 16, 2021, the House of Commons massively recognized the status of the French nation of Quebec. So it makes sense that not only should Quebecers not have to lose a seat in the next redistribution, but instead gain more, if the total number is increased, in order to maintain and give lasting protection to their political power," Blanchet said in a statement.
At his news conference, Legault said: “What’s important is the percentage of seats, whether it’s more for everyone or fewer for everyone, what’s important is the percentage, that we keep the percentage of seats that we currently have."
He said that changing populations may matter in other provinces “but from the moment when we say the Quebec nation is one of the two founding people, it has to have consequences. The consequence, among others, is preserving the influence of the Quebec nation in the House of Commons.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.
Marie Woolf and Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press