Drawing up lists must be transparent
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.