Draw­ing up lists must be trans­par­ent

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - BY HARRY BA­GLOLE Harry Ba­glole of Bon­shaw is a for­mer Di­rec­tor of UPEI’s In­sti­tute of Is­land Stud­ies.

In some re­cent ed­i­to­rial com­ment about elec­toral re­form, as well as in Alan Hol­man’s col­umns, Is­lan­ders have been show­ing con­sid­er­able in­ter­est in what one might call a Sup­ple­men­tary Mixed Mem­ber sys­tem; that is, the com­po­si­tion of the Leg­is­la­ture is made more pro­por­tional through a list of “sup­ple­men­tary” MLAs, who are elected through the PR prin­ci­ple.

There has also been sup­port for us­ing our four fed­eral rid­ings as elec­toral units for di­vi­sion into pro­vin­cial vot­ing dis­tricts.

My own pref­er­ence would call for 30 MLAs – a tra­di­tional num­ber for the Is­land, and one which al­lows for an ad­e­quate and ef­fec­tive Op­po­si­tion.

I’d sug­gest, fur­ther, that each fed­eral rid­ing be di­vided into five pro­vin­cial elec­toral dis­tricts. These 20 seats would be filled, as at present, though first-past-the-vot­ing. Thus each Is­land res­i­dent would con­tinue to have his or her own lo­cal MLA.

The re­main­ing 10 MLAs would be elected – on the ba­sis of pro­por­tion­al­ity - from lists pro­vided by each of the of­fi­cial par­ties. These lists would, of course, be made public be­fore the elec­tion, with the pre­ferred can­di­dates at the top, headed, pre­sum­ably, by the party leader. Roughly 10 per cent of the vote would be re­quired to elect each per­son from the list.

Many Is­lan­ders have ex­pressed con­cern about how such lists might be drawn up, fear­ing back-room deals or over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion from ur­ban ar­eas.

Thus we must make sure – through leg­is­la­tion, if nec­es­sary – that the se­lec­tion process is demo­cratic, trans­par­ent and fair. At the very least, it should in­volve an open elec­tion among the party mem­bers, pos­si­bly through pri­maries or re­gional meet­ings.

Fur­ther stip­u­la­tions might be made, to help en­sure eq­uity and ad­e­quate lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion: There could be pro­vi­sion, for in­stance, that there be at least two list can­di­dates from each fed­eral rid­ing area; and that there be an equal num­ber of men and women, in al­ter­nat­ing or­der, on the lists.

Such an elec­toral sys­tem would pro­vide enough con­ti­nu­ity that we would still, in most cases, have ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments.

At the same time, it would pro­duce an ef­fec­tive op­po­si­tion of at least five mem­bers, in­clud­ing one or more from Third Par­ties.

If the last elec­tion were held un­der such a sys­tem, the Lib­er­als would have a smaller ma­jor­ity, the PCs would have an ex­tra mem­ber or two, the NDP would be rep­re­sented, and all the party lead­ers would be mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture.

I think most Is­lan­ders would re­gard this as a fairer and more ef­fec­tive re­sult.

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