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P.E.I. MLAs begin debate to determine electoral reform referendum question

Premier Wade MacLauchlan gets ready for yesterday’s proceedings of the legislative assembly ahead of the oppositions questions about his connections to a company that received a contract to provide home care in P.E.I.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan in the legislative assembly in this file photo.

When Islanders vote in the upcoming electoral reform referendum their choice could come down to a simple yes or no.

On Friday, MLAs started to debate a motion calling on the legislative assembly to adopt a clear question for the referendum that will be attached to the next provincial election.

The question, as set out in the motion, would ask Islanders if they want to adopt a mixed member proportional representation system.

It will be a yes or no question.

Related: Referendum on electoral reform in P.E.I. will not be legally binding

Related: Mixed-member map to be drawn for P.E.I.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan was one of the Liberals who spoke to the motion Friday, saying the clear referendum question will give Islanders a chance to have their say on how they choose elected representatives in the future.

“Islanders will have their say and their collective voices will be heard on how our province will be governed,” he said.

In 2016 the province held a non-binding plebiscite on electoral reform with mixed member proportional representation coming out as the top choice.

The Liberals didn’t implement that system and Premier Wade MacLauchlan said at the time the voter turnout of 36.5 per cent wasn't high enough.

The government’s speech from the throne in the fall promised referendum legislation this year with a clear question, although that referendum is also not binding.

That legislation will come after MLAs finish debate of the motion to determine the referendum question.

MacLauchlan said MLAs must put to Islanders a question that’s “free from ambiguity” and establishes a process to produce a result with a clear level of support.

He also said many Islanders didn’t understand how the preferential ballot worked in the 2016 plebiscite.

“The plebiscite in the fall of 2016 did not produce a clear answer to a clear question,” MacLauchlan said.

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