Mov­ing democ­racy for­ward

“We are deeply dis­ap­pointed that both Pre­mier MacLauch­lan and your­self have missed this golden op­por­tu­nity…”

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Jor­dan Bober, Char­lot­te­town, on be­half of the P.E.I. Coali­tion for Pro­por­tional Rep­re­sen­ta­tion

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.

CP PHOTO/AN­DREW VAUGHAN

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, right, chats with Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan in Bru­denell on Thurs­day, June 29, dur­ing the PM’s visit to the prov­ince.

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