© Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
Florence Larkin, right, follows the written text as Marie Burge presents the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation position to the Legislative Committee on Democratic Renewal in Alberton in mid-October, 2015, in this TC Media file photo.
Premier’s comments prove there is still much interest in debate
In response to The Guardian’s weekend editorial on electoral reform:
No, November’s democratic renewal plebiscite is not ‘on life support.’ The campaign is just getting started. The premier’s comments only serve to heat up the debate.
The Special Committee on Democratic Renewal has just restarted its work for the year, consulting Islanders in preparing a plebiscite question for us to consider in November. Premier MacLauchlan has made his personal views clear, but he is just one citizen on this Island - it’s up to all of us to get engaged and to form our own views.
We Islanders had the questionable privilege of two election campaigns last year - and we haven’t quickly forgotten what happened. Both the federal and provincial elections produced disproportional outcomes - clear majorities for the Liberals in terms of the number of seats held in the legislature, despite their party only having 40 per cent of the vote in both cases.
When 60 per cent of the population doesn’t support a so-called ‘majority’ government, the voting system isn’t truly democratic, and it needs to change.
Proportional representation, if used in last year’s provincial election would have led to 11 Liberals, 10 PCs, 3 NDP and 3 Green seats in the Legislative Assembly. Shock. Horror. It would have been a minority government.
But would that really have been so bad? With 14 votes of 27 needed to pass any bills, just imagine - the Liberals would need to get either the NDP or the Greens on-side with any legislation passed. Or the PCs would team up with both minor parties for a total of 17 votes to pass any changes.
Perhaps in such a situation, we would have had greater scrutiny, negotiation and co-operation on the province’s budget, instead of one party being able to push through what they want.
And if we’d had such a situation before the last election, perhaps that rather unfortunate e-gaming fiasco would have been avoided.
Inter-party co-operation is the norm in many nations who use proportional representation - including most countries in Europe. Where coalition or minority governments are common, the parties just learn to get along with each other. So, don’t be scared, Mr. Premier - it just means that you politicians will have an extra incentive to treat each other with respect.
Co-operation is the essence of democracy, and it’s a whole lot better than the partisan bickering and polarization that is encouraged by first-past-the-post.
I've met with the members of the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal - Liberals Jordan Brown, Paula Biggar, and Janice Sherry, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, and Sidney McEwen of the PCs. I am especially impressed with their work and cross-party co-operation. They have such a positive tone, and their openness to citizen input is to be applauded as they look at the question of democratic renewal from all sides.
Their work presents a great opportunity for change on the island - and, as Trudeau’s cabinet also considers their options for federal electoral reform, it even presents an opportunity for P.E.I. to lead the nation. So, cheers Mr. Premier, for offering your controversial opinion. Although I strongly disagree with you, you’ve proved that there is some life in this debate yet.
By Anna Keenan (guest opinion)
Anna Keenan, New Glasgow, is a community activist on various issues who made submissions to the Democratic Renewal Committee last year, advancing a model called Dual-Member Mixed Proportional, and this model made it into the committee's final recommendations report.