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.”

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