McIsaac proposes legislature seats for party leaders

Ryan Ross
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Education Minister Alan McIsaac

He's not looking for widespread electoral reform, but Education Minister Alan McIsaac says he would like to see party leaders in the legislative assembly.

In an interview with The Guardian, McIsaac said he wants Islanders to consider changes to the way they elect their leaders.

"I think it's very important that we have come forward the very best leaders possible no matter what the party may be," he said.

Under P.E.I.'s first-past-the-post system the only people who sit in the legislative assembly are those who win their seat by getting the most votes in their riding.

But what McIsaac is suggesting is to have the leader of any party get a seat inside the legislative assembly, as long as their party gets enough support during an election.

It would be a dedicated seat meant only for the leader who would represent the entire province on behalf of their party, instead of holding a seat for a specific riding.

McIsaac said the way the system works now leaders who aren't elected have to sit outside the rail and aren't involved in proceedings inside the house.

"I think the way we do that at this time kind of discourages some of the best people from coming forward," he said.

Parties are able to choose leaders who aren't elected members and if that happens, the new leader is left outside the legislative assembly.

Premier Robert Ghiz faced that scenario when he took over the Liberals before a general election and both the Green party and NDP are in the same situation.

But those leaders aren't paid, which mean finances can be a consideration when running for a party leadership.

Unelected party leaders also don't get to take part in any proceedings within the legislative assembly, such as votes on legislation.

What McIsaac proposes is for the province to make a change during the next electoral boundaries review and to reduce the number of ridings to allow for the leader seats.

With fewer seats for MLAs, the leader of any party that received 10 per cent of the popular vote during an election would get a seat in the legislature under the proposed system, he said.

After the last election, that model wouldn't have landed any of the third party leaders in the legislature, since the Greens finished third with 4.4 per cent of the popular vote, but future votes could be very different.

The NDP, for example, have seen their polling numbers steadily increasing, putting them above the 10 per cent threshold for voter intentions in every poll since February 2012, including a 22 per cent peak in November.

McIsaac said he has been talking about possible the changes for a while, but doesn't know how much traction it has.

"I have no idea," he said.

Organizations: Islanders

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Recent comments

  • Ad Hoc
    February 06, 2013 - 17:59

    This doesn't sound like a good idea at all. You could have a person that is recruited and advocated by the party "back room", affirmed by a few hundred votes of the party faithful, gain a seat and potentially become premier without ever having held public office or won an election. Talk about unqualified. On the plus side, the PC's could potentially have 3 leaders in the house, instead of the mere 2 they have now :)

  • only the best are poliiticians
    February 06, 2013 - 14:17

    What a terrible comment on THE POPULATION OF PEI ------mcisaac insinuates that the BEST people are in politics --and the rest of the best are leaders of small political parties who can't make it tio the SEAT OF PRIVILEGE ,POWER AND PNP STYLE PORKBARRELING- sad ----------but i think the polticians all believe that they are extra special and can dive deeper ,swim further and do just about everything better than anyone else --if you don't believe me --just listen to them

  • voter
    February 06, 2013 - 06:22

    in this tiny place we are infested with politicians and their ilk now ---WE CERTAINLY DON'T NEED MORE

  • Checker
    February 05, 2013 - 14:48

    Thank you Mr. MacIssac for restoring an old codgers faith in politicians. I hope you table such a bill because you will get lots of public for support for this measure. You might even want to entertain the notion of recall as well. Seriously, it is refreshing to see someone propose meaningful change to our outdated system . Well done!

  • Steve Beairsto
    February 05, 2013 - 11:17

    The only way we'll ever see more party leaders is if we move to a system of proportional representation vs. FPTP (30% of the votes mean 30% of the seats, etc.) I don't see this happening though, as it could lead to minority governments which have to form a coalition with the other party in order to form a government. Even then, not all party leaders would be guaranteed a seat. Remember, MLAs get salaries, expenses and pensions, so automatically bestowing more seats means more money out of taxpayer pockets, taxpayer who didn't even vote them into office. This is simply not going to work. One thing I wouldn't have a problem with would be for party leaders to come into the legislature and occasionally use it as a soapbox for their views and concerns. They wouldn't have a vote, but at least their party's concerns could be heard, just not on the taxpayer dime.

  • Steve Beairsto
    February 05, 2013 - 10:43

    If a party leader can't win a seat in any provincial riding, maybe it's for a reason. They're not automatically owed a seat in the legislature just because they're a party leader. If they want to be represented, then they need to win the support of the voters at the polls in their electoral riding. That's how democracy works.

  • smoke and mirrors?
    February 05, 2013 - 10:43

    While the idea may not be fully developed, it certainly opens the door for more discussion. But there's the rub. This government neither has a history of open-minded conversation, nor does it authentically include people in the decision making process - see Plan B, HST, PNP, etc. So, we'll see. If this idea has any legs it will gain traction on the Legislative floor rather than slide down slippery slope of silly sloganeering. Just more smoke and mirrors? We'll see . . .

  • SG
    February 05, 2013 - 10:30

    IF YOU ARE SERIOUS: I agree. What Islanders' need is Recall Legislation not more MLA's. Our Voices are only heard once every four years during an Election. Our Voices should be heard on ALL ISSUES that affect Islanders! Our Government should have given Islanders a VOICE on HST. How does a Government Govern on behalf of it's people when their people don't have a voice on any issues? After an Election Islanders' are the Voice of the Silent Majority. I won't Vote for any Party in the next Election unless all Parties agree to implement Recall Legislation. My Vote means nothing to me if my Voice is Silent for another four years!

    • W.Wilkins
      February 05, 2013 - 10:50

      While recall legislation is interesting, it's still subject to other aspects of jurisprudence, not the least of which is procedural fairness. Let's call for a good hard look at how "recall" is playing out in British Columbia before we call for it here. The last thing we need is more smoke and mirrors . . .

  • walter
    February 05, 2013 - 09:04

    I have said it before and I will say it again, we need a citizens committee to come together and work on governance in this Province. It should address recall legislation, reduction on the number of MLAs and their salaries as well as cabinet salaries, MLA pension reform (RRSP), legislated spending and balanced budgets, and other items the public would deem needed. This could be called the Constitution of PEI, - and should be ready for presentation to all parties that run candidates in the next election, ---- somebody pick up on this CALL-- there must be some smart, resonable, sensible an reputable people out there ??????????????

    • intobed
      February 05, 2013 - 09:51

      Walter, why not just eliminate ALL political parties? They are just self-serving entities anyway, and have been a problem for many elections. We need to divide PEI into twelve districts, each with an independent representative. The twelve will work together to develop long term plans, and hold constant discussions with Islanders via polls, plebiscites, on line discussions, town hall meetings, etc. WE THE PEOPLE will steer the government, not political parties.

    February 05, 2013 - 08:15

    Let's get less party and more people in government who care about the province and the people. Prove me wrong if you can that Parties are for parties and party members only regardless of which party is in power. They are all the same. We need a new system of Government where all members are non party and voted in by the people and not a party. All elected members would then decide among themselves who is to be Premier. If the Premier is not fulfilling his/her duties then he/she would be replaced and another Premier voted in,. Each member would have a vote on all legislation. That vote would be based on what he/she sees as a vote in the best interests of the people who voted them into office and not what is in the best interest of a party. That is true democracy when the peoples representatives decide what is best for all people and not a group who has the interest of their dues paying members only.

  • Peiguy
    February 05, 2013 - 07:55

    No. Giving a seat away would not be democratic. If the leader of a party does not have the confidence of the people he is probably not suited to the role. Confidence being that they have enough votes to get a seat. The party leader can be remunerated if the party considers it a paid position. If the party cannot afford to pay their top executive then it cannot have a realistic hope of getting enough votes to be relevant. Talk about opening the door for the "backroom boys to rule. That goes for any party

  • alfredd
    February 05, 2013 - 07:45

    how about reform that cut the number of MLAs in half and eliminated committees that serve to bleed the taxpayers and enhance the income of MLAs freduced, Committee work should be part of thgeir job descriotion, a job for which they are moere than well paid. Reform should also include elimination of the committee that review MLAs salaries, - MLAs should get increases based ion the cost of living index. Further their pensions should be changed to a contribution to an RRSP thatr they take with them when they are done, ---- then the taxpayers are also done, and not on the hook for the lifetime of those people. So, Mac Issac there is something to put your teeth into. Your suggestion about the leaders would cost us more money, since you suggest they be paid, --- my first reaction is NO> mo nyvoist us irebsion

  • Do Not Add
    February 05, 2013 - 07:00

    This is totally the wrong approch . Any fool can become the leader of a party as we are seeing right now here on PEI . Why not do the right thing & reduce the number of MLA's in half . That makes far more sense . Should have been done when the property vote was done away with a number of years ago . Now that would make sense .

  • Danny
    February 05, 2013 - 05:32

    the last thing this province needs is another mla. we need to cut down the amoun of seats we have not add more. for a province that is bleeding red what makes you think we should pay you if you can't even get the votes to make it in now. stop looking for the easy way in and earn some votes.

  • kyle
    February 05, 2013 - 03:42

    Alan MacIsaac seems muddleheaded and short on details. How many at-large MLAs will there be? If 10% is the doorstep for one leadership seat how many accrue to a party with 50%? If only one, why is 50% the equivalent of 10%? If the goal a broader range of representation in the Assembly one way to go about it could be 9 constituencies with 3 members and each voter getting 2 votes. This would be a sort of modifed proportional representation which, however, has been rejected by voters consistently across Canada. In any case proposals should be thought out before being articulated. It is pathetic that the Education minister does not know how to do homework. He is a bad example to the Island's youth.

  • hugh
    February 05, 2013 - 00:04

    This is a great idea! Any party leader popular enough to receive 10% of the popular vote in a provincial election, deserves to have a seat in our legislative assembly.

  • if you are serious
    February 04, 2013 - 22:58

    If McIsac wants to do something for Islanders he will support the idea of making the members who are elected subjected to recall legislation . There is nothing more frightening to a politician than the thought that they have to fully accountable all the time, unfortunately most aren't . The premier has stated time after time that the voters will have their say at election time. Well I think that this is not acceptable ,because by the time elections are held it is too late and we the taxpayers are let with a mess. that was caused by politicians that didn't think that they had to be accountable to those who elected them in the first place