MacLauchlan, Aylward spar over election date, referendum question

Hopes that the date of the next provincial election and further details about the electoral reform referendum would be revealed during the fall sitting were dashed in the P.E.I. Legislature on Friday.

'I think a lot of islanders want to know when the election is going to be on P.E.I.'

Premier MacLauchlan said details on the referendum question will be answered during the spring sitting. (Government of P.E.I.)

Hopes that the date of the next provincial election and further details about the electoral reform referendum would be revealed during the fall sitting were dashed in the P.E.I. Legislature on Friday.

Opposition leader James Aylward asked Premier Wade MacLauchlan when the work of the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal would resume and when Islanders would learn about the date of the next provincial election.

Regarding the special committee, MacLauchlan said legislation enabling a referendum will be tabled in the spring sitting. 

"It was indicated in the speech from the throne that there would be legislation considered in the spring sitting to address a referendum and that's as far as anything that I've had to say about that to date," he said.

To be further discussed in the spring sitting

Aylward also asked the premier whether 16- and 17-year olds would be permitted to vote in the referendum attached to the next provincial election, since younger voters were also allowed to make their choice during the 2016 plebiscite.

"The particular question that's being asked, along with many others, will indeed be matters that will be for this assembly to determine when we take up the question of legislation," MacLauchlan responded.

Opposition Leader James Aylward pressed Premier MacLauchlan for details on when the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal would be back to work and when the next provincial election date would be. (CBC)

"Which will be required since we don't currently have referendum legislation in the province … I'm sure that's the better time to take that up, not to be asking me to commit to this or that here today."

'I will honour the vote whatever the result is'

Without a clear answer from MacLauchlan, Aylward said following question period that the special committee needs to get back to work now to prepare for the referendum question.

He also said the parties need fair warning on whether or not there will be an election in October 2019, since it may coincide with another federal election and could potentially be pushed off until spring 2020.

We've already seen this government not abide by the fixed election date.— James Aylward

"I think a lot of Islanders want to know when the election is going to be on P.E.I. … We have a set election date, a fixed date, which is suppose to be the first Monday in October 2019," he said, which would be Oct. 7.

"We've already seen this government not abide by the fixed election date, so I'm just trying to get the premier on record as to if he's going to stick to the fixed election date or if he's going to waver from it."

Regarding whether Aylward is for or against electoral reform, he said he won't be in either a yes or a no camp and that he'd honour whatever voters choose in the future referendum.

"I've already said during the leadership campaign that I will honour the vote whatever the result is in the referendum — within the first 18 months of my mandate I will ensure that the referendum is put into law."

With files from Kerry Campbell