A tale of two prov­inces


Since the Elec­toral Sys­tem Ref­er­en­dum Act (Bill C-38) was tabled in the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture on May 10, 2018, there has been con­sid­er­able crit­i­cism of the bill, a bill that was pro­duced af­ter an ex­ten­sive wait on the part of the public and with­out any call for public in­put. Critics have pointed out that the fines are much larger than those in the pro­vin­cial Elec­tions Act, that the Ref­er­en­dum Act is vague and too re­stric­tive, lim­it­ing free­dom of speech. A num­ber of times it has been sug­gested by var­i­ous critics, that the leg­is­la­tion as it stands is not con­sti­tu­tional and could not with­stand a court chal­lenge. (There were a num­ber of amend­ments sub­se­quently tabled). On May 30, B.C. At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Ge­orge Eby tabled his rec­om­men­da­tions for leg­is­la­tion for the ref­er­en­dum on pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion that is to be held there, by mail-in bal­lot, be­tween Oc­to­ber 22 and Novem­ber 30 of this year. These rec­om­men­da­tions were drafted af­ter an ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion with the public and seem to re­flect the in­put pro­vided. While there are re­stric­tions on fundrais­ing in B.C., no out of prov­ince or union or cor­po­rate dona­tions are al­lowed, the fines are con­sid­er­ably smaller than what is pro­posed here. Sig­nif­i­cantly, groups out­side of the official pro­po­nent and op­po­nent groups, in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties, are al­lowed to cam­paign as well, al­though there are spend­ing lim­its. To date, there have been not been the same con­cerns over the lim­i­ta­tion of free speech that we have had with Bill C38 on the Is­land and no ques­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of any leg­is­la­tion that would be pro­duced out of these rec­om­men­da­tions. As the Is­land em­barks on this demo­cratic ex­er­cise, it might be in­struc­tive to see how other prov­inces are trav­el­ling down the same road. Is­lan­ders are en­cour­aged to com­pare the two orig­i­nal leg­isla­tive pack­ages. - Brenda Oslawsky lives in Spring Val­ley and was a mem­ber of the P.E.I. Coalition for Pro­por­tional Rep­re­sen­ta­tion and is vice-pres­i­dent of Fair Vote Canada.

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