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BLAKE DOYLE: Expect the expected - P.E.I. election 2019

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Election watching possesses a seriousness akin to the passion expressed in athletic playoffs. There is a veil of sportsmanship-respect; but second place is not a mantle to strive for, it's simply the first one who lost. Stakes are high and hinterland of loss leads to atrophy.

This election is one of the most intriguing we have experienced in a very long time. We have an unprecedentedly robust economy, an antediluvian government (that means long-toothed….I just didn't want to use that language in case it offended readers). We have a pentagon of parties pulling the voting base apart, and a tight congregation to the centre of the political spectrum – thus little differentiation. It's a bit of a dog’s breakfast with no discernable way to decipher the outcome.

Blake Doyle
Blake Doyle

How does the business community respond to this environment? Hedge. Play multiple sides, spread investment, don't get too cozy with candidates. As the single largest economic driver, proximity to provincial politics can create an artificial environment or ensure a slow death on the vine.

Icing this political stew is a battle to change our electoral system. The lines of battle are drawn as we have the politically neglected versus the politically entitled. We have three leaders openly advocating for mixed member proportional and one who has crafted legislation to at least test the subject, again. Seems like uniform endorsement at the political leadership level; not so at the political operational levels.

The biggest detraction of MMP is also its greatest strength, popular vote representation. Some of our strongest global economies operate under differing forms of proportional representation, and it does result in fractured assemblies. The result is consensus governing and less authoritarian policy imposition; this can be both positive or negative.

Whether the electorate support MMP or not, it would appear there is a high probability we will get a taste of the effects. With a minority government highly likely consensus will be essential; at least for a year or two.

The only surprise in this week’s results is that we will be ‘less surprised than we expected to be’. We will almost assuredly test a consensus environment with or without MMP. A more manageable option would be to increase the size of representation; as 27 seats is not much to work with in forming a cabinet from a minority position. In this case an affable ‘nice guy’ who doesn't want to ruffle feathers may be a workable, but untested, lesser of evils.

Not considering committee work or appointments, the $72,569 MLA base salary equates to a tax payer investment of $2m. I would propose increasing the number of representatives to 50 and decreasing their base salary to $40k; which is entirely appropriate for a part-time commitment (as most backbenchers hold fulltime jobs). With a legislature of 50 people MMP can better distribute the popular vote of the legislature and improve the bench strength of a governing party.

Regardless of your preferences, this is truly an exciting election to watch and one I am sure few passive citizens are placing bets on the results; including the business community.

Blake Doyle is The Guardian’s small business columnist

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