Elec­toral re­form vote com­ing

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PROVINCE - dstew­art@the­guardian.pe.ca

“If you look at the last seven elec­tions there were two that pro­duced what you would call a bal­anced leg­is­la­ture; the other five were some­what lop­sided,’’ MacLauch­lan said. “That would be one (rea­son why) it’s time to con­sider or re­flect upon our demo­cratic or elec­toral process.’’

The white pa­per presents three sets of top­ics for dis­cus­sion and de­ci­sion - the method of how Is­lan­ders vote, the num­ber and dis­tri­bu­tion of seats in the leg­is­la­ture and op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­hance elec­tion laws and rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the leg­is­la­ture.

As for the ac­tual vot­ing process, Is­lan­ders will be given three choices - stay with the cur­rent first-past-the-post sys­tem, pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion and pref­er­en­tial bal­lot.

Pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion would in­volve two more choices, such as vot­ing for two or more rep­re­sen­ta­tives in a dis­trict or vot­ing for a can­di­date and sep­a­rately for a party.

The pref­er­en­tial bal­lot in­volves ranked choices of two or more com­pet­ing can­di­dates, from most to least pre­ferred.

Is­land vot­ers re­jected elec­toral re­form in a plebiscite 10 years ago, with 63 per cent vot­ing to stay with the sta­tus quo.

How­ever, many say that part of the prob­lem then was Is­lan­ders sim­ply weren’t prop­erly en­gaged and many didn’t un­der­stand choices they were given.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Rob Lantz says things need to be laid out a lot bet­ter this time around.

“(Op­tions) need to be well ex­plained to Is­lan­ders and this spe­cial com­mit­tee has a dif­fi­cult task in front of it,’’ Lantz said. “That will be the chal­lenge, to en­gage ev­ery­one, even those that wouldn’t nor­mally get all that in­volved.’’

Green Party Leader Peter Be­van-Baker says this is a his­toric op­por­tu­nity for the province.

“P.E.I. is al­most unique. We are small and we have this gift of ju­ris­dic­tion and if we want to do some­thing bold and in­no­va­tive we can do it no mat­ter what the is­sue,’’ Be­van-Baker said. “We could be at the fore­front of demo­cratic re­newal.’’

In ad­di­tion, the white pa­per pro­poses a mod­i­fied re­turn to the dual-rid­ing for­mat that ex­isted in P.E.I. prior to 1993.

Specif­i­cally, the pa­per puts for­ward 24 seats in the leg­is­la­ture that would be elected un­der the ex­ist­ing model, and an ad­di­tional four seats that would fol­low the bound­aries of the four fed­eral rid­ings.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

Green Party Leader Peter Be­van-Baker, left, chats with Lib­eral Premier Wade MacLauch­lan be­fore pro­ceed­ings at the leg­is­la­ture Thurs­day, where the premier tabled the white pa­per on elec­toral re­form.

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