Candidates in an election for the Québec National Assembly can choose to
run in any riding, even if they have never lived in that riding or do not
have an office there. However, a potential member of the National Assembly
must choose a single riding, which means that simultaneous candidacies
are prohibited. In other words, a candidate cannot run in more than one
riding during the same general election. A look at history shows that this
was not always the case.
In 1867, with the proclamation of the British North America Act, Québec
was granted its own parliamentary institutions. The first election to choose
the 65 members of the new Legislative Assembly took place in August and
September 1867. Nineteen candidates ran unopposed, including lawyer Edward
Brock Carter in the riding of Montreal Centre.
The First Simultaneous Candidacy
Carter ran for re-election in the 1871 election. Nominations were held
on June 30 at the Montreal courthouse in front of 300 to 400 people. Carter
wrongfully assumed he would once again be re-elected by acclamation. But
he did not have the right profile. In fact, the newspaper La Minerve reminds
us that when Montreal Island was split into three ridings, there had been
an understanding that the representative for Montreal Centre would be chosen
from among the merchant class1. He was put against Liberal Luther Hamilton
Holton, the former finance minister in the pre-Confederation Macdonald-Dorion
government (1863-64) and owner of the newspaper The Herald. Holton had
also been the member for Châteauguay in the House of Commons since 1867.
At the time, representing two ridings was not prohibited. One person was
allowed to run for a seat in the Legislative Assembly and the House of
Commons, be elected and sit in those two parliaments.
In the 1867 and 1871 elections, the nominations and elections were not
held on the same date in all 65 ridings, and the vote was held over two
days by open vote. In Montreal Centre, the vote was held on June 22 and
23. On the first day, Carter held a very small lead of one vote, which
disappeared the following day. Holton, the Liberal, won by a majority of
Table 1: Simultaneous Candidacies in the Quebec National Assembly
||Riding and Result
||Edward B. Carter
Montréal Centre Defeated
||Edmund J. Flynn
|On June 6, 1892 he chose to represent Gaspé
|On November 13, 1897 he resigned both when he was appointed judge of the
Superior Court of Arthabasca.
Montréal number 2 Elected
|On March 11, 1909, nine months after his double victory, Bourassa chose
the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe
Montreal number2 Defeated
||Louis A. Taschereau
Minister of Labour and Public Works
||Joseph E. Caron
Minister of Agriculture
||Charles R. Devlin
Minister of Colonisation, Mines and Fisheries
|On November 14, 1912 he resigned as member for Nicolet
|On November 14, 1912 he resigned as member for Saint-Jean
||Jean B.B. Prévost
||Joseph E. Perrault
Minister of Colonisation, Mines and Fisheries
|On September 27, 1923 he resigned as member for Abitibi to allow Hecter
Authier, a pioneer of the region to enter the legislative assembly
Montréal Saint-Jacques Defeated
Montréal Sainte-Marie Defeated
A riding name in bold indicates that the candidate was the incumbent in
Less than one week after the upset over the former member for Montreal
Centre, rumours were circulating that he would enter the race in Châteauguay2.
June 30 was chosen as the nomination date. The incumbent, Dr. Édouard Laberge,
was once again in the running. Carter was also forced to run again3,
was absent when it came time to register nominations in Sainte-Martine4.
Dr. Laberge received the support of the federal member in the area, Luther
Hamilton Holton, the same man who had defeated Carter in Montreal Centre.
The vote was held on July 10 and 11. Laberge won with a significantly smaller
majority compared to the previous election. That was the end of Carters
political career in Québec; he moved to the federal stage to represent
the people of Brôme. As for Holton, he was re-elected in Châteauguay in
the 1872 federal election. He stepped down from his position as member for
Montreal Centre in the Legislative Assembly on January 16, 1874, when
representing two ridings was prohibited.
In the end, the first attempt at a simultaneous candidacy in Québec was
a double failure for the candidatea rare outcome, as we will see. In fact,
can this truly be called a simultaneous candidacy, since the candidate
did not run in more than one riding at the same time? Carter would no doubt
not have run in Châteauguay if he had retained his seat in Montreal Centre.
Other Simultaneous Candidates
Table 1 shows the other individuals who ran simultaneous candidacies over
the next six decades.
With the exception of Carter in 1871, simultaneous candidacies were used
by prominent figures, premiers, party leaders, ministers, former ministers,
and nationalist leaders.
Of the thirteen simultaneous candidacies, eight were Liberals, three were
Conservatives, and two were nationalists. Lomer Gouin was the only individual
too run in two ridings on two occasions. Eleven of the thirteen candidates
were incumbents. The other two, Flynn and Bourassa, had government experience.
The former in Québec, as surplus minister, and the latter in Ottawa.
Of the incumbents, seven retained their riding but were defeated in the
second riding. Two were defeated in the riding they had represented, but
won in the other. Two incumbents lost their seat and were unable to win
a seat elsewhere.
In all, six candidates won in both ridings, five won in one of the ridings,
and two were defeated in both.
Of the six candidates who won in both ridings, two decided to continue
to represent the voters of the riding they had represented in the previous
election, one opted for the other riding, and another resigned from both
seats in order to be appointed as a judge. Of the two candidates who had
not been members in the previous legislature, one (Flynn) chose a riding
he had previously represented, and the other (Bourassa) chose Saint-Hyacinthe,
where he had family ties, although his win there was far from convincing.
The time period between the date of the general election and the date the
candidate decided which riding he intended to represent, and the time period
between the date that decision was made and the date the by-election was
held to fill the vacant seat, shows that Flynn made his decision in less
than three months, while Bourassa took nine months to make his choice.
The subsequent by-elections were held from one month to nearly a year after
the member made his choice.
The seven by-elections necessary to fill vacancies, including the double
resignation of François-Xavier Lemieux who was named to the bench, resulted
with two exceptions in the victory of the party which had won the seat
in the general election.
The last person to run a simultaneous candidacy was Camillien Houde, who
had been mayor of Montreal since 1928. During the 1931 general election,
he announced that he would run in two ridings.5 He ran in Sainte-Marie,
which he had represented since the by-election in 1928, and which he had
represented from 1923 to 1927; and in Saint-Jacques, where he had been
courted to run against Irénée Vautrin, who had been paying close attention
to him for three years.
If he were to win in both ridings, Houde would give his seat to a minister.
Rumours were going around about fast-track negotiations that if Houde were
elected in both ridings, he would give up his seat in Saint-Jacques to
Ésioff Patenaude, who would also become the official protector of the interests
of Lord Atholstan, head of the newspaper the Montreal Star and friend of
the financiers of St. James Street and other similar large companies.6
The great crash of 1929 and the presence of a Conservative government in
Ottawa could have been beneficial to Camillien Houde and his party. The
Conservative leader travelled the province and led a consistent campaign.
The message went largely unnoticed; the Conservatives won 9% more votes
than in 1927, but Houde fever did not catch on enough to help them gain
power. The Liberals won 79 seats and the Conservatives won just 11, two
more than in 1927.
This was a failure across the board for Houde, who was defeated by 806
votes by Vautrin, and by 515 votes by Gaspard Fauteux. Houde legally contested
the validity of the election in 63 ridings in Québec, on the grounds of
irregularities committed by the Liberal candidates. In order to do so,
he had to pay a $63,000 surety bond. The government countered by passing
the Dillon Act7, which made the dispute more difficult, because it required
the petitioner to pay the $1,000 surety bond using their own money. The
legislation was retroactive to include disputes already underway.
That was it for the little guy from Sainte-Marie. Houde became the first
candidate to run in two ridings at the same time without winning. This
failure opened the door of the leadership of the Conservative Party to
Maurice LeNoblet Duplessis.
This was also the last simultaneous candidacy in our history, since an
amendment was made to prohibit them in the Election Act in 1952.8
In the years preceding the passage of this act, simultaneous candidacies
had already lost popularity. The amendment of the Election Act led to a
wonderful exchange between Premier Maurice Duplessis and the leader of
the official opposition.9
Mr. Duplessis: Another article of the legislation aims to prevent an individual
from running in two ridings at once. It does not affect the absent leader
(Georges-Émile Lapalme, leader of the Liberal Party since May 20, 1950)
since he is afraid to run in a single one, but it affects the candidates
of the Union Nationale. They are so popular that they are being courted
everywhere. We are in favour of a democratic principle: One man, one vote,
and we want to be rid of this archaic legacy.
Mr. Marler: I find this provision to be completely satisfactory, because
I thought the premier would run in Trois-Rivières and elsewhere in order
to ensure he would be elected; I see that he is giving that up.
Mr Duplessis: I am in demand in all the ridings, and I can assure the
leader of the opposition that if I ran in those ridings, the province would
make $200 per riding. I urge the leader of the opposition to come and see
for himself the effects of what he is wishing for.
Mr. Marler: I accept that invitation. I will surely go to Trois-Rivières.
Mr. Duplessis: You will be very welcome. And you must bring your partys
leader. My opponent will not have many votes.
Mr. Marler: I am in no way worried about the results of the next election.
As for this provision in the legislation, I think it is reasonable, and
such a decision has already been made elsewhere, for example at the federal
level in 1919.
One might wonder why the Québec Parliament passed this legislation when
simultaneous candidacies were a thing of the past. Was it simply to harmonize
its Election Act with federal legislation that prohibited this type of
candidacy since 1919.10
Or simply to avoid having candidates tempted to
copy what was going on in other jurisdictions by running in more than one
riding? In Great Britain, simultaneous candidacies were never prohibited
by law. In 1880, Charles Stewart Parnell was elected in the three ridings
in Ireland where he had run. Today, these candidacies are mainly seen with
fringe political parties. Indeed, during the 1992 general election, Screaming
Lord Sutch, leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, ran unsuccessfully
in three ridings: Huntingdon, Islwyn and Yeovil. In 2005, Rainbow George
Weiss of the Vote for Yourself Rainbow Dream Team ran, and was defeated,
in 13 different ridings.
1. La Minerve, June 16, 1871.
2. Le Journal de Québec, June 27, 1871.
3. Le Journal de Québec, July 4, 1871.
4. La Minerve, July 3, 1871.
5. LAction catholique, August 14, 1931.
6. Camillien Houde as reported by Hector Grenon, Montréal, Stanké, 1979,
7. Loi modifiant la Loi des élections contestées de Québec, S.Q., 1931-1932,
8. Loi modifiant la Loi électorale, S.Q., 1952, chap. 19, art. 2.
9. Le Devoir, January 9, 1952.
10. See the House of Commons Act 1919, Statutes of Canada, chapter 18,