Voting advice: Can politicians weigh in without sounding self-serving?

The plebiscite to choose a new system to elect government — or keep the current one — will be held Oct. 29 to Nov. 7. And last weekend, Premier Wade MacLauchlin announced Liberal MLAs would be free to promote whichever of the five choices they prefer.

MLAs say it's not what's good for them, it's what's good for the province

The plebiscite to choose a new system to elect government — or keep the current one — will be held Oct. 29 to Nov. 7. (Radio-Canada)

Liberal MLA Richard Brown says he prefers P.E.I.'s current first-past-the-post voting system. He has, after all, been elected 10 times that way.

PC MLA Sidney McEwen says he might have preferred a mixed-member proportional system before he got into politics.

Now, not so much.

And who can blame Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker for thinking a proportional representation is best? His party would have won two more seats in the 2015 election under that system.

The plebiscite to choose a new system to elect government — or keep the current one — will be held Oct. 29 to Nov. 7.

Free to choose

Over the next four weeks, pundits and Opposition MLAs will no doubt be weighing in. And last weekend, Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced Liberal MLAs would be free to promote whichever of the five choices they prefer.

Richard Brown admits the current system has been good for him, but says he prefers it because it makes MLAs accountable to their constituents. (CBC)

MLAs say it's not what's good for them, it's what's good for the province. But can they state their preference without sounding self-serving?

Brown acknowledges the current system has "been good to Richard Brown," but he said that's only because his constituents have put their faith in him.

'District level'

"First and foremost, the MLA gets elected on a district level," he said on Mainstreet.

"The MLA or the MP must be responsible to its constituents. I'm a firm believer in that and if that means first-past-the-post, then that's what I prefer."

Sidney MacEwen says he prefers a first-past-the-post system. (Government of P.E.I.)

McEwen also believes the best system is one where the MLA is directly accountable to the district. That's why he said he prefers first-past-the-post or dual member proportional, which includes an element of first-past-the-post.

But it wasn't always that way.

'Two tiers of MLAs'

"Before I got into politics, I might have thought maybe a mixed-member proportional system might be OK," he said. "Now when I look at it, it creates two tiers of MLAs where you're not directly accountable to a constituency, so in the next election you don't have to go back to the doors and answer for the decisions you made in the house."

Peter Bevan-Baker says he prefers a proportional system not because it may benefit the Green Party, but because he thinks it will provide "better governance." (CBC)

Bevan-Baker, on the other hand, said he would like to see a change to a proportional system, even though it may appear he's putting his own party's interests first.

'Not the reason'

"Now, I can be accused, as the Green Party leader, of opportunism in doing that because, generally speaking, proportional systems favour up-and-coming, emerging parties, such as the Green Party is on Prince Edward Island," he said.

"That's not the reason I think it's a better system, it's because it will provide in my opinion a better parliament, to provide better governance to provide better decisions for Islanders."

Understand pros and cons

The MLAs said the most important thing is for people to understand the the pros and cons of each system, and to get out and vote.

"I'm not going to try to sway anybody," Brown said. "I'm just saying, here's the systems and the current system has been good to Canada. We've built a great country around the current system."

With files from Mainstreet