PEI Picks Proportional Representation
By: Ryan Young
While most people were gearing up for the last day of the marathon Clinton/Trump campaign in the United States, the real local political nerds and junkies were following the results of a plebiscite happening on Prince Edward Island. Islanders were asked to choose between keeping the current First Past the Post electoral system or changing to a form of Proportional Representation (PR).
The PR options on the ballot included Mixed-Member Proportional Representation (MMR or MMPR), Dual Member Proportional Representation (DMPR), Preferential Voting (PV), and a hybrid system called First Past the Post + Leaders (FPTP+). For a detailed explanation of how each system works you can visit the elections PEI website for detailed information and videos on each system on the ballot.
In an effort to do a better job of engaging the electorate, voters were given the option of voting in-person, online, or via telephone. Despite these updated voting methods, the turnout for the vote was a dismal 36%. The vote was done using Preferential Voting with Mixed-Member beating out First Past the Post in the final round of voting with 52%.
The government so far has been non-committal. Premier Wade MacLauchlan has publicly stated that he does not support PR and referenced the low-turnout numbers in a short statement to media. He has promised that his caucus will discuss the issue today and issue a statement shortly after. If the government accepts the results of the plebiscite, PEI will become the first province in Canada to use a form of Proportional Representation to elect their provincial leaders. Islanders are due for another provincial election in 2015, just before our own provincial election and the next federal election. Many questions are still swirling about Prime Minister Trudeau’s promise to move Canada away from the First Past the Post system, but the vote in PEI is a great first start to changing the way we elect our leaders.
There does not seem to be much interest in electoral reform from our own government, but many people are working behind the scenes to develop an action plan to start moving the idea forward in NL. It is no secret that our democracy is badly damaged and needs a complete overhaul. The writing has been on the wall for a long time. People in this province are not always the most receptive people when it comes to change, so we need to do a good job of explaining what is wrong with our current system and what options are best for NL to consider moving forward.
Making every vote count is something that should be a no-brainer, but governments are often reluctant to relinquish their own strangleholds on power for the greater good of all. All over the world, PR has been proven to improve cooperation between political parties and it is long past time that we looked at ways of getting rid of our own antiquated system.
Hopefully, the Prime Minister will follow through on his promise. If he does it will put pressure on the provinces to follow suit. In the meantime, we need to let our own government know that we want change, and offer some realistic solutions on how we can make it happen. The time for electoral reform has come and we must embrace it. In the meantime PEI should be a great case study to follow.