A plebiscite on electoral reform in P.E.I. will likely send Islanders to the polls in 2016.

The government unveiled its white paper on electoral reform in the legislature Thursday.

Ten years ago Islanders were asked to consider a mixed-member proportional system of voting. Few Islanders actually voted, and those who did overwhelmingly rejected the new model.

This time, government says there will be three choices on the ballot:

  1. First-past-the-post, the current voting system;
  2. Some form of proportional representation;
  3. Preferential ballot, or ranked ballot.
P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan most a new voting system might make election imbalances less likely. (CBC)

The preferential ballot system is similar to the one used by the Progressive Conservative Party in February to elect a new leader. The government's white paper acknowledges preferential balloting does not directly translate vote share into seat share, and so may not succeed in making election outcomes results more proportional.

But it says the new system can reduce the possibility of frequent minority or coalition governments.

P.E.I. has a history of lopsided election results, although this last election was an exception. But Premier Wade MacLauchlan says a new system of voting might make those imbalances less likely.

Legislative committee to be struck

"That would be one way in which people might say it's time to consider or reflect upon and to debate our democratic and electoral processes. But I'm not saying there absolutely has to be change," said MacLauchlan.

"Most jurisdictions in Canada that have considered this have come through with the status quo."

Peter Bevan-Baker June 2015

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker will be part of a five-member committee to guide the reform process. (CBC News)

In its discussion paper, the government puts forward a "proposed model," based on a preferential ballot and the dual electoral districts P.E.I. had in the past.

The government will strike a special legislative committee of five MLAs to guide the reform process.

"I think first of all we have to learn from the mistakes that were made last time," said committee member and Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker.

"The last plebiscite 10 years ago was poorly organized, the question was confusing. It certainly wasn't promoted by government. Government did not get behind it and I think in their silence there was a sort of tacit refusal to endorse it."

The committee will hold consultations and give an interim report to government by this November. Then more public consultations will take place in the fall and winter.

"All of those options are on the table. They need to be well explained to Prince Edward Islanders," said PC Leader Rob Lantz.

"This special committee has got a difficult task in front of it."

A final report is scheduled for the 2106 spring legislative sitting, along with the plebiscite.

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Question of the day: Are you looking forward to the debate on electoral reform on P.E.I.?