PEI·PEI Votes

What's next for the referendum question on P.E.I.?

Islanders voted to keep the current electoral system of first past the post, but only by a slim margin, begging the question of what's next for the question of electoral reform on P.E.I.

Just over half of Islanders voted in favour of keeping the current system of first past the post

Two thresholds needed to be met to trigger a change, and the vote failed on both fronts. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Islanders voted to keep the current electoral system of first past the post, but only by a slim margin, begging the question of what's next for the question of electoral reform on P.E.I.

More than half voted in favour of staying with the first past the post system we have now. The Referendum Act required two thresholds to trigger a change, and the vote failed on both fronts. It required the support of a majority of Island voters in at least 17 districts, but that 50 per cent was only reached in 15 districts.

'Hopefully now that the majority has spoken that we're not going to be back in this situation in a year's time or three year's time,' says John Barrett, spokesperson for No What to Vote. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

John Barrett, spokesperson for No What to Vote, the group that was advocating to retain the first past the post system of voting, said the result was closer than he expected. But, still a decisive victory that should put the debate around mixed member proportional representation to rest for now.

"I think there's been enough discussion, there's been enough voting taking place. I think the referendum should put it to rest for a while, I mean we had 80 per cent of Island voters turn out to vote," Barrett said. "Hopefully now that the majority has spoken ... we're not going to be back in this situation in a year's time or three year's time."

Barrett said the issue of electoral reform is not off the table going forward, but the majority of Islanders felt the system proposed in this referendum was not the change they were looking for.

"We're not opposed to electoral reform, we're just opposed to that specific model of electoral reform," Barrett said. "So I think quite a number of people who did vote no still probably have an interest in some type of electoral reform that would be good for the entire province."

'Yes' campaign urges government to explore more options

But, those who campaigned on the "yes" side of the referendum question say the close result shows an increase in the number of people on the Island looking for an alternative electoral system. 

"It's not the results we would have hoped for but it indicates that there's significant support for MMP on the Island. Almost 50 per cent of voters voted in favour and the majority of districts across the Island supported it," said Brenda Oslawsky, spokesperson with Vote Yes P.E.I.

Oslawsky said Vote Yes P.E.I. is calling on government to establish a group to study the issue of electoral reform more closely and work toward finding an option more Islanders can get behind. 

'I think that people will continue to look for electoral reform,' says spokesperson for Vote Yes P.E.I., Brenda Oslawsky. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"I think that people will continue to look for electoral reform and that's why we've called for a citizens assembly to help find a way forward in a way that will satisfy the great majority of Islanders," Oslawsky said.

She said she would like to see an assembly of citizens who are picked at random and non-partisan to carry out that research and look at the concerns on the Island to come up with suggestions for electoral reform moving forward.

During his campaign, PC Leader Dennis King said he was in favour of a switch to an MMP system, and voted yes himself. After seeing the results last night he said it was clear there is a desire among Islanders to continue the conversation about how MLAs are elected on P.E.I. and hopes to continue discussions about electoral reform moving forward.

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