Moving democracy forward
“We are deeply disappointed that both Premier MacLauchlan and yourself have missed this golden opportunity…”
An open letter written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by members of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation and personally delivered to the Prime Minister last week his stop on Charlottetown, along with the digital signatures of hundreds of Islanders who signed it.
Dear Prime Minister: Welcome to Charlottetown, the birthplace of Canadian confederation! We are honoured that you’ve come to visit on the eve of the 150th anniversary celebrations.
We, the undersigned, had some big dreams for Canada 150. We Islanders believed that the birthplace of Confederation could, 150 years later, become the birthplace of democratic renewal in this country.
We dared to imagine that P.E.I. could once again lead Canada’s democracy into its next phase - into a future in which every voter is truly represented in Canada’s parliament, and where the parliament reflects the diversity of the country’s political views. A future which requires collaboration between parties, rather than competition, to help the country move forward.
Such a vision for parliament is only possible with an electoral system based on Proportional Representation, and that is what islanders voted for in last November’s plebiscite: Mixed Member Proportional Representation was the electoral system of choice; First Past the Post trailed in support by 10 percentage points.
We were shocked and dismayed when Premier Wade MacLauchlan and his Liberal caucus chose not to honour the vote, and even more shocked when the same was repeated on the federal level only a few months later: after investing $4.1 million in the work of the Electoral Reform (ERRE) Committee, you discarded their recommendation that Canada have a national referendum on Proportional Representation.
We are deeply disappointed that both Premier MacLauchlan and yourself have missed this golden opportunity for progress. We know that both of you value the contributions that women and marginalized communities make to Canada’s society, and yet you have both chosen not to implement a key reform which would have enhanced the participation of those under-represented groups in our parliament.
On May 31, our local MP Sean Casey stood up in the House of Commons and chose to honour the vote of his constituents, by voting in favour of the concurrence motion to accept the report of the ERRE committee. He listened to his constituents, and showed respect to the committee who studied the testimony of expert witnesses before the ERRE committee. We commend Mr. Casey for his action and for representing us.
Just this week, you have clearly stated your personal opinion that you think ‘Proportional Representation would be bad for our country,’ and that you would have preferred a ranked ballot reform. We suggest that - just like Premier MacLauchlan here on P.E.I. - the power of elected office seems to have blinded you to the weight of evidence in favour of Proportional Representation, against which your opinion cannot stand for long.
When you were elected, you committed to evidence-based decision making. You invested $4.1 million dollars in the ERRE committee who heard 60 days worth of evidence at public meetings. The results were clear.
We urge you to listen to the voice of your constituents, as Sean Casey did, and to the voice of experts who testified to the ERRE committee. At the next election - both here on P.E.I. and federally - we will be looking for candidates who will clearly commit to moving Canada’s democracy forward with Proportional Representation, preparing the ground for the next 150 years of good governance.
Better is always possible, and in the project of democracy, better means proportional representation.
Next time you visit, we hope you can stay a little longer and talk with us at a public event.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, chats with Premier Wade MacLauchlan in Brudenell on Thursday, June 29, during the PM’s visit to the province.