a, Opinion

To be or not to be franchised

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect my first real political campaign to make such a big splash. When I first contacted the Parti Vert du Quebec, I offered to volunteer in the campaign and perhaps even run; but I never expected that I actually would get a chance to stand for election. However, when I met with the party leader, Alex Tyrrell, I found that my ideals and beliefs did identify very closely with the new Parti Vert du Quebec.

As a student who works part time (and with two summer jobs) more affordable education and free public transportation are very salient issues for me. There was the appalling notion of drilling for the hard-to-reach oil that might be under Anticosti Island—a large part of which is a nature reserve or park. Such a disregard for the environment reflects disgracefully on any party that supports it. I also saw the need to put aside the sovereignty debate to focus on other issues, though I myself am a federalist. Most importantly, I feel that Quebec needs a change in government. Not just in governing party, but in the very makeup of the National Assembly.

As a young, 21-year-old candidate for a party without seats in the National Assembly running in a Liberal stronghold riding my chances of making much impact were not high. However, I did make an effort to publicize the fact that there were youth active in the political spectrum. The apathy of which the young are generally accused is not all-encompassing. I wanted to show the province, the older politicians, and my fellow youth that students could have a reasoned, active voice in the democratic discourse. I hoped to encourage more students to get involved in the future and in getting out to vote. At least that’s how my campaign went for the first week. While I got some youth interested, the media was focused elsewhere. That all changed  when I was denied the right to vote by the reviewers at the Mercier revisions board. To them, I was not a Quebecer.

I had brought the necessary documentation to register as a voter in the election, as well as proof of my candidacy. Not only was I denied by the revisions board, but the board tried to convince me that I wasn’t even a candidate! Suddenly, my effort to enact change was brought into question, and my right to have a say in what happens in my province was contested. The Parti Vert du Quebec  believe that this action of turning me and countless other students away is blatant discrimination on the part of the Directeur général des élections du Québec (DGEQ), inspired by the accusations made by the Parti Québécois.

As I was fighting for the right to vote and run in the election, I was effectively trying to prove my own legal personhood. Thankfully, the judge who heard my case acknowledged the absurdity of the notion that I would have the documentation to make me eligible to run as a candidate but not as a voter. Clearly by running, I demonstrate a vested interest in the province and it is my “domicile.” Sadly, my case was the only one of the five McGill students who sued for their right to vote that was granted an injunction. My four co-plaintiffs and countless other students were denied the right to vote as their domicile was still in question. While we at the Parti Vert du Quebec respect the judge’s ruling, we do believe that this is discriminatory meddling on the part of the DGEQ against anglophone students, as inspired by statements made by the Parti Québécois. It really is a sad day when, in a Western democracy, eligible voters have their voices silenced. This should never happen, and shouldn’t have happened here.

To my fellow students, don’t let your voices be silenced—I certainly will not; but remember that you have a voice too. Speak up.

Brendan Edge is a U2 Canadian Studies and History student who was the Parti Vert du Quebec candidate in the Chomedy riding.

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  1. Arielle VanIderstine

    So proud of you, Brendan. You restored my faith in both youth and politics, and definitely sparked some interest in candidacy for the next time around. I’ve received so much fulfillment by speaking out for myself and other students. We’ve done well, sir.

  2. Dementor's Nemesis

    Edge’s story has been all over the news for weeks now and it appears he seems to conceal some information with his case. First off, the injunction he was part off states he is not, to his knowledge, registered on any Voters List in Canada, while also saying that he voted in Canada’s last Federal General Election on May 2, 2011. One thing to know about Voters List in Canada is that they are updated AT LEAST yearly to reflect changes by reaching out to Federal and Provincial agencies. As such, in Québec, the RAMQ sends the DGEQ names of newly eligible voters before they reach the age of majority (I myself received a letter from them a month before my 18 birthday in 2009 saying I would be added to the Provincial and Federal Voters Lists).

    Ontario also had a General Election on October 6, 2011, to which Edge would have also been eligible to vote, has he voted then? He is mysteriously quiet on that. Now since Edge is now on the Québec Voters List, has he asked the Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario to be struck off of the Ontario Voters List? If not, that makes him eligible to vote in Provincial Elections in both Provinces and I hardly see this as a moral behaviour considering Edge is a politically-inclined individual and should he run for a party that has a chance to win a riding, these event might be brought up and people could make allegation of electoral fraud.

    Moreover, Edge has been playing the victim card all along saying that he was silenced by the DGEQ by not granting him the right to vote. It sucks for him to be offended, but being a student in a province different than your own makes your residency in that host province seem temporary since you still have ties with your home province, and thus your Provincial voting right IS respected as you can still vote in your home province. Letting some people, namely students, have the right to vote in two provincial jurisdiction is unfair for the rest of the electorate.

    Another note, Edge never seemed to have questioned why he was sworn in as a candidate in the Chomedey riding when clearly he did not have the right to be one since he was not eligible to vote. If Edge was committed to vote in Québec, why did he take so long to register to vote? Anyone can be added to the Voters List at ANY time, you only need to contact the DGEQ with two pieces of ID to prove your domicile. Here, Edge took almost 3 years to do so and then filed an injunction because of his lack of oversight on the matter, wasting public money with his use of the Justice system.

    Edge’s case revealed a loophole in the Québec Election Act: namely that once a candidate is found not respecting one of the requirements, their candidacy shall be nullified. And thus, the Act should be amended to prevent such an absurd affair from happening again. Hence, that is probably why the judgement from the Superior Court of Québec is nuanced in such a way that the Judge granted Edge, and Edge only, the right to vote because the Election Act implies that when someone is a candidate, they are an eligible elector and that such decision from the Returning Officer cannot be overturned. The Judge did not stipulate if Edge was in fact eligible to vote had he not been approved as a candidate.

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