P.E.I. unsure of electoral reform, premier says
CHARLOTTETOWN— The low turnout for Prince Edward Island’s plebiscite on electoral reform — 36 per cent — means it’s debatable whether results can be considered a clear expression of the will of Islanders, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said Tuesday.
The premier said the results confirmed the need for the legislature to “enhance our democracy,” but he did not commit to making any changes to the existing first-past-the-post system, even though it was rejected as the best option after 10 days of online and telephone voting wrapped up late Monday.
“We certainly won’t ignore (the plebiscite),” MacLauchlan said in an interview. “This has been a major exercise in democracy for our province. . . . The ongoing dialogue is a continuing process. We are absolutely taking to heart the plebiscite and the results.”
The non-binding vote was based on a preferential ballot system that offered voters five options to rank in order of preference. Mixed-member proportional representation garnered more than 52 per cent of the votes, once the votes for the other options were redistributed according to the rules of preferential voting. The first-past-the-post system received close to 43 per cent of votes in the final round.
MacLauchlan said poor showing at the polls, when compared with the 80-per-cent turnout recorded in nine of the past 10 provincial elections, meant there was no real mandate for change. “(Low) voter turnout and the level of support (for change) means that just under one in five registered voters has supported mixed-member proportional representation,” he said. “That’s why there should be more debate.”