Death, palace intrigue and allegations of lies and corruption are at the centre of the highest number of Quebec byelections in more than 30 years.

The Oct. 2 byelection in the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hebert will be the 15th in the province since Philippe Couillard's Liberals formed a majority government in April 2014.

Ontario, by contrast, has had seven byelections since Kathleen Wynne's Liberals won in June that year.

At roughly $500,000 a pop, byelections this legislative session will cost Quebec around $8 million, according to the province's elections commission.

And that sum doesn't include so-called "transition" allowances given to some of the departing politicians.

Before November 2015, members of the legislature who left mid-mandate were eligible to such payments to help them in their career switch.

Yves Bolduc, the ex-education minister who lost Couillard's confidence early in the Liberal mandate, pocketed $150,000. His staff — who were also put out of work when he resigned — shared another $150,000.

The high number of byelections — the most in one mandate since 1981-85 — forced the government to end the practice of automatic allowances. Now, only politicians who leave early for "serious" family or health reasons are eligible.

Julie Champagne, a spokeswoman for Quebec's national assembly, said "it is up to the ethics commissioner to determine if the departing member satisfies the conditions to receive an allocation."

Despite the change, nine members resigned this session before the new rules were adopted.

The most high-profile resignation came in May 2016, roughly 24 hours after a cryptic television interview involving Julie Snyder, the ex-partner of then-Parti Quebecois leader Pierre Karl Peladeau.

Peladeau resigned the following day, saying he was choosing his family over politics.

He'd been leader for a year.

Weeks later, PQ house leader Bernard Drainville resigned and soon after began co-hosting a popular Quebec City radio show, leading pundits to speculate his political career was hitched to Peladeau's and sank as a result of him leaving.

Drainville had replaced Stephane Bedard, who quit office shortly after Peladeau demoted him during a turbulent time for the party in 2015.

The Liberals haven't had it any easier, with the Opposition strategically attacking the party on its key vulnerability: its past.

The Opposition has tried to pick off Liberal cabinet ministers by accusing them of corruption and being tied to alleged wrongdoings from the Liberal era of Jean Charest, whose party lost the 2012 general election.

Sam Hamad left cabinet in April 2016 after he was connected to a former Liberal fundraiser facing corruption-related criminal charges. The fundraiser, Marc-Yvan Cote, is awaiting trial along with various co-accused, including ex-deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau.

Hamad was cleared by the province's ethics commissioner of any wrongdoing but he never rejoined cabinet and quit politics last April.

Former cabinet minister Jacques Daoust resigned in 2016 after perceived wrongdoing involving the controversial sale of Rona Inc. to U.S. hardware retailer Lowe's.

Daoust died last month.

Additionally, a byelection was held after the death of Sylvie Roy, who was sitting as an Independent member of the legislature.

Concordia University political scientist Harold Chorney said it is common for politicians to leave during a mandate.

"Politics is a thankless career; you put your livelihood and that of your family at risk and in the hands of the public and you're there to serve," Chorney said in an interview.

"People find it tiring for all sorts of personal reasons. It wears people out."

Chorney also said there appears to be a birth of a new generation of idealists.

The new wave is personified by Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who in his mid-20s won a seat in a byelection this year for Quebec solidaire, a left-wing party hoping to steal votes from the PQ and make inroads outside Montreal.

October's byelection is being held against the backdrop of good economic news for the Liberals.

Quebec is a leader among the provinces in job creation, salary increases, and its unemployment rate hasn't been as low for decades.

If political donations are any indication, however, the PQ remains a popular choice for citizens, with the sovereigntist party getting $611,837 in donations between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31.

The Liberals are second with $417,508 and Quebec solidaire, with only three seats in the 125-member legislature, is third at $214,879.

The Coalition for Quebec's Future, which is gaining strength in the polls and is considered a possible dark horse in the 2018 fall general election, is last among the four major parties, with $144,949.


The fairest electoral system does not require byelections. The system uses ranked ballots in multi-member electoral districts and a counting system that tries to give every voter a representative of his or her values, and for each representative to represent the same number of voters. The Single Transferable Vote (STV), called Ranked Choice Voting in the USA, is rhe best known such system. If a representative dies or resigns one takes those ballots that elected him or her and transfers them to the next ranked candidate that is available, and continue counting as usual. This process should elect a new representative with values similar to the one being replaced, at little cost.
This scheme gives incentive to parties to run more candidates than they expect to get elected in the first instance, thus giving voters the benefits of more choice at the election.

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