I attended the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal’s Community Meeting in Souris on Oct. 21. There are eight of these meetings Island wide over a three-week period ending Nov. 4 in Charlottetown. Using the White Paper on Democratic Renewal as a guide, this may be the only opportunity Islanders have to participate directly in the process of electoral reform before facing a referendum on three voting options. As presented in the White Paper these options are: first past the post, a preferential ballot and proportional representation.
The committee seems to be genuinely interested in talking to Islanders about this critical issue before they’re scheduled to present a report to the Legislature next month. Unfortunately they are bound by a White Paper presumably constructed by the Premier’s Office which is weighted toward one of those referendum options. It also carries with it a timetable that simply doesn’t allow enough time to have meaningful, informed discussion about what our options actually are.
Government should make use of its assets to adequately promote and support this process. It also must provide ample time for Islanders to become familiar with what is being discussed. Public consultation is not simply something to be tolerated by government on the path to its chosen outcome.