Residents of Prince Edward Island soundly rejected the idea of changing the way they elect politicians on Monday night, with an overwhelming "no" vote in a plebiscite on a Mixed Member Proportional electoral system.
The no side was in front from the very first results, and by the end of the night, Islanders had voted 63.58 per cent against reform, while 36.42 per cent voted yes.
|The final numbers|
|20,515 votes||11,750 votes|
|25 districts||2 districts|
The result of the plebiscite is not binding. Premier Pat Binns said he would have considered the province bound if 60 per cent of Islanders voted yes, and at least 50 per cent of Island's current 27 electoral districts endorsed change.
Blair MacNevin, who voted no, said it wouldn't do anything to help solve the province's main problems of unemployment and growing debt. "It's not going to change a thing," he said.
"Islanders have quite clearly said they're not ready for a change at this particular time," Binns said. The premier said as far as he's concerned the issue is put to bed and there'll be no more talk about electoral reform before the next provincial election.
Mark Greenan took time off from university to fight for the yes side
"It's just a starting point on electoral reform on P.E.I., "said Mark Greenan who quarterbacked the yes campaign.
"I, myself, personally, will continue to fight for electoral systems that truly treat all voters equally."
The Commission on P.EI.'s Electoral Future offered a modified system featuring both the current first-past-the-post system, and a system that would have offered a number of seats based on percentages of the popular vote in a second ballot.
P.E.I. would have elected 17 members in districts across the Island in the normal manner. Ten more seats would have been awarded by the popular vote.
Pat Mella was once the PC treasurer of P.E.I.
"I'm not surprised. The proposal itself was much too dramatic a change," said former MLA Pat Mella, who campaigned against the proposal. "There [wasn't] good information provided to people. From what I gather they did not feel they were well informed on what the proposal would do."
Only two districts voted in favour of the plan. Charlottetown-Kings Square and Charlottetown-Rochford Square endorsed the move to a new system.
Some 97,000 people were eligible to vote in the plebiscite, however those who campaigned on the yes side said the Binns' Conservative government did everything it could to make sure people were not engaged in the process.
The Tories were accused of not giving the commission enough time to conduct a proper educational campaign. It was also criticized for giving Elections P.E.I. a shoestring budget to conduct the plebiscite.
Voter turnout was poor compared to the usual levels of provincial elections. The Island has not had a voter turnout below 80 per cent in 30 years of provincial elections. During the last election, just hours after a hurricane hit the province, there was an 83.27 per cent turnout.
Elections P.E.I. said there was a 33 per cent voter turnout, as a total of 32,265 of those 97,000 Islanders bothered to vote.
"It probably tells me that the political parties get much more involved for an election than for a plebiscite," Binns said of the poor numbers. "Certainly what I was hearing out in P.E.I. over the last week was that people were not ready for a change."
There was some confusion as voting got underway. Many Islanders found their traditional polling places were not open as Elections P.E.I. was forced to reduce the number of polling stations by 75 per cent to fit a reduced budget.
At least 200 people contacted the office of the province's acting chief electoral officer, Lowell Croken, by early Monday.
"Without shooting the messenger here," Mella said of the commission's efforts, "at least they were good discussions that were held. You have to use different methodisms to get to people in this day and age."