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By Gerry Hopkirk and David Weale (guest opinion)
Regarding “Democratic Renewal” in Prince Edward Island, Vision P.E.I. applauds the extended time frame, the broadening of options and the additional consultation for the next phase. However there was one option offered that seems to have been omitted. Should we not also consider the suggestion that governance for this small place should move beyond party politics?
Yes, as a province we could still participate, with record voter turnout, in the federal party system. But for our own governance do we need this partisan party structure, with its patronage at every level of Island society? Do we need this us-versus-them approach to pave our roads, educate our children, and find our unique way in the world of economics, agriculture, and environmental integrity? Are political parties the best way to govern this province? Some of us think not.
There are many, many places across this country and around the world that are larger than Prince Edward Island, in both area and population, which govern themselves effectively without partisan political parties and cumbersome government structures while giving citizens a true voice. That could be us.
We are, after all, a small pastoral island, 120 miles long and 20 miles wide with 145,000 human inhabitants: small enough to adapt nimbly and creatively in a manner that would be impossible in larger jurisdictions; small enough to ponder a radical alternative to our current electoral process; and small enough to take the lead in reforming the political structures that have outlived their effectiveness.
How might it look? Check this out:
“The Legislative Assembly of Nunavut is a public government and operates on the consensus model. Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) belong to no political party and voting isn’t based on party politics. The people of Nunavut elect each of their MLAs as an independent representative.
The MLAs vote for and form the government from among themselves.
“Soon after each general election the MLAs elect one of their Members to be Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and another to be Premier of Nunavut. They also elect from among themselves the Members of Cabinet that form the government. The Cabinet is a minority in the Legislature, so the majority of MLAs must agree upon and approve any legislative decision.” (Wikipedia)
If this type of approach were implemented in P.E.I., MLAs could be chosen using a preferential ballot to ensure that every member would have approval by a majority of voters in each district.
We are aware that this Island is steeped in the party tradition. It is true, nonetheless, that there are many Islanders, including many of our youth, who recognize the need for radical change. We also believe that any process into electoral reform that does not examine the issue of political parties is incomplete. For this reason we respectfully submit that this option should be on the “Democratic Renewal” agenda.
The complete Vision P.E.I. submission to the democratic renewal process is available at www.assembly.pe.ca/democraticrenewal.
Gerry Hopkirk and David Weale are members of Vision P.E.I., a non-partisan group committed to promoting creative public discourse about what is possible.