Op­po­si­tion won’t sup­port Mitchell as ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sioner

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND -

Ger­ard Mitchell, P.E.I.’s first po­lice com­mis­sioner and a re­tired chief jus­tice, says he would like to be the prov­ince’s ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sioner, but he has yet to hear if the job is his.

“I’d be in­ter­ested in do­ing it,’’ he said. He added he has not heard any­thing “of­fi­cially or un­of­fi­cially’’.

The Guardian has learned that the se­cre­tive Leg­isla­tive Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee, a com­mit­tee made up of all par­ties and chaired by Speaker Buck Watts, held an ur­gent meet­ing on Fri­day in an ef­fort to get all-party agree­ment for Mitchell to be the ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sioner. The 45-minute meet­ing, which was not listed on the com­mit­tee’s web­site, ended with­out the sup­port of the Op­po­si­tion Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives or the Green party.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties are con­cerned the process is be­ing con­trolled by the pre­mier’s of­fice be­cause Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan said back in May he wanted Mitchell.

There were eight other ap­pli­cants, sources say.

The name put for­ward for ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sioner will need the sup­port of two-thirds of MLAs. That means Mitchell’s ap­point­ment needs the sup­port of 18 mem­bers. The Lib­er­als only have 16 MLAs in the House, in­clud­ing the speaker. That means at least two Op­po­si­tions MLAs must sup­port the rec­om­men­da­tion.

The ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sioner is a re­quire­ment un­der the Elec­toral Sys­tem Ref­er­en­dum Act that sets out the rules that will de­ter­mine if P.E.I. changes to a mixed mem­ber pro­por­tional sys­tem.

That vote will be tied to the next gen­eral elec­tion.

Charles MacKay, clerk of the leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly, con­firms the com­mit­tee met in cam­era Fri­day to dis­cuss the rec­om­men­da­tions for both the po­si­tion of ref­er­en­dum com­mis­sioner and the clerk po­si­tion.

MacKay is step­ping down in March. Both rec­om­men­da­tions will be made pub­lic dur­ing the fall sit­ting of the leg­is­la­ture, which be­gins Tues­day.

The can­di­date for clerk po­si­tion can be ap­proved with a sim­ple ma­jor­ity, which means the Lib­er­als can pass the clerk’s ap­point­ment with­out the sup­port of the Op­po­si­tion par­ties.

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