Crowd demands P.E.I. government accept plebiscite result

Hundreds gather outside legislature Tuesday evening

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on November 29, 2016

Premier Wade MacLauchlan waits his turn to speak to a large, boisterous crowd that gathered Tuesday in Charlottetown to demand the plebiscite result be honoured.

©JIM DAY/TC MEDIA

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - First, Islanders voted for change. On Tuesday, they roared to see that change take place.

Hundreds gathered on a cool November night outside the Coles Building – the temporary home to Prince Edward Island’s legislature – to demand government respect the majority plebiscite ballot selection.

The boisterous group rattled signs and hollered for change at the Rally For Democracy aimed at convincing government to respect the outcome of the province’s recent plebiscite on electoral reform.

Last week, Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker’s motion calling on government to immediately take steps to implement Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP), which was the winning choice of five options on the plebiscite ballot in the vote held earlier this month, was soundly defeated.

I think Islanders are very, very passionate about democracy. They know fairness. Mark Greenan

 

Premier Wade MacLauchlan tabled his own motion, proposing to hold a second vote on electoral reform, in conjunction with the next provincial election.

Politicians poked their heads out of the Coles Building Tuesday night for short spurts, but the loud chants of “Honour the Vote” seemed to hasten their retreat.

MacLauchlan was the exception.

He took to the microphone to urge patience as the province moves on what he called a path towards electoral reform.

“We took the plebiscite to heart,’’ he said.

“There will be change.’’

The crowd, however, would have none of it.

They want change now.

They want MMP to be the new electoral system for the next provincial election.

Event MC Josh Weale told the premier he has the opportunity to be a great reformer.

“You have the majority in the legislature,’’ said Weale.

“Just pull the trigger. Seize the day.’’

That call prompted the premier to return to the podium.

“We will get to the destination – just stay on the path,’’ MacLauchlan said before returning to the legislature.

Bevan-Baker, unlike the premier, made his way to the microphone in response to popular request.

He told the crowd that he had not planned to speak, noting he had already said more than his piece on the contentious plebiscite matter.

Still, he offered up some sharp words directed towards the Liberal government that unanimously shot down his motion.

He says the rejection of a democratic outcome will prove to be a self-inflicted wound not so easy to recover from.

“I don’t think this is going to go away,’’ Bevan-Baker foreshadowed.

“This time we’ve got them.’’

Mark Greenan, one of the rally organizers, called the large turnout a positive indication that there remains plenty of fight to push for the plebiscite result to be acted upon.

“I think Islanders are very, very passionate about democracy,’’ he told The Guardian.

“They know fairness.’’

Weale described as demeaning the need for Islanders to demonstrate to have the majority-backed plebiscite choice honoured.

“It just feels in a democracy, we the people should be in charge,’’ he said.

Lynne Lund, deputy leader of the Green Party of P.E.I., said the premier’s opinion on the plebiscite is not worth more than the opinion of the majority of Islanders that cast their vote.

“We want government that is accountable to us…and we want the government to honour this vote,’’ she said.

Hundreds of Islanders gathered outside the Coles Building in Charlottetown Tuesday night to demand Mixed Member Proportional Representation be implemented to honour the outcome of the province’s recent plebiscite on electoral reform.

©JIM DAY/TC MEDIA