Electoral reform interim report tabled in P.E.I. Legislature

Islanders should help shape a plebiscite question on electoral reform and the right to vote in the plebiscite should be open to Islanders as young as 16 years of age, P.E.I.’s special committee on democratic renewal recommends.

Committee held 9 community meetings across the Island in October and November

P.E.I.’s special committee on democratic renewal released an interim report in the Legislature on Friday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Islanders should help shape a plebiscite question on electoral reform and the right to vote in the plebiscite should be open to Islanders as young as 16 years of age, P.E.I.'s special committee on democratic renewal recommends.

"We are all here as elected officials, that all came by virtue of the existing system that we have," committee chair Jordan Brown told the legislature Friday.

"But that doesn't mean that we have a right to that system, or to be elected in a certain way, or anything of that nature. And really what we are is we are representatives of our constituents. And so we owe it to ourselves and to our constituents to go back into our constituencies to take some time and digest this report."

The committee's interim report was tabled Friday. That followed a series of nine community meetings across the Island in October and November that focused on a white paper issued in July.

Further consultation planned

The special committee heard more than 100 presentations during the public meetings, and those have helped refine the options it will pursue, said Brown.

The residents of Prince Edward Island have a critical role.- MLA Jordan Brown

Consultations will continue, said Brown.

"As we have explained throughout this process, this special committee, working by consensus, feels that the residents of Prince Edward Island have a critical role to play in this exercise and ultimately to the democratic process itself," he said in a news release.

The committee's interim report recommends that Islanders help shape the plebiscite question, with a consultation phase taking place in early 2016; and that the plebiscite be supervised by Elections PEI, and Elections PEI be charged with considering alternative methods of voting in the plebiscite, including online voting.

The committee recommends the plebiscite question be presented to the legislature in May 2016, with a plebiscite taking place in November.

The electoral systems being considered include:

  • The current electoral system.
  • The current first-past-the-post with additional seats for leaders of political parties which receive a certain threshold in the popular vote.
  • The preferential ballot, as a method of selecting members of the Legislative Assembly.
  • Mixed member proportional representation.
  • Dual member mixed proportional representation.

P.E.I. has a history of lopsided election results. In four of the last five elections the opposition has held five or fewer seats. Premier Wade MacLauchlan has said electoral reform could make unbalanced legislatures less likely.

In a 2005 plebiscite 63 per cent of Islanders rejected a proposal for proportional representation. Turnout at the plebiscite was low, and there were complaints it was poorly organized.