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‘Debatable’ vote, says P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan

Premier Wade MacLauchlan says the turnout and the final results make it “debatable whether the plebiscite conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov.7 produced a clear majority.”
Premier Wade MacLauchlan says the turnout and the final results make it “debatable whether the plebiscite conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov.7 produced a clear majority.”

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – A majority of voters in P.E.I.’s plebiscite on electoral reform may have voted for change, but Premier Wade MacLauchlan says the results of the vote are “debatable.”

He pointed to voter turnout of 36.5 per cent that saw Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) representation emerge the winner after four rounds of counting of the ranked ballots.

He says this turnout and the final results make it “debatable whether the plebiscite conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov.7 produced a clear majority.”

“By the fourth and final round of counting, the support for MMP represented 19 per cent of eligible voters, or fewer than one in five. It is doubtful whether these results can be said to constitute a clear expression of the will of Prince Edward Islanders.”

But just what will happen next remains a mystery. The premier would only say the results will be debated in the upcoming fall sitting of the legislature, which opens next week.

On Monday, Prince Edward Island made history in becoming the first province in Canada to endorse a form of proportional representation in a provincewide vote.

Mixed Member Proportional representation won with 19,418 votes, or 52.42 per cent. A preferential ballot was used, and telephone and online voting was employed for the first time ever in P.E.I.

The current First-Past-the-Post system was the second most popular option, receiving 15,869 votes or 42.84 per cent.

A total of 37,040 votes were cast, which translates into a turnout of 36.46 per cent of registered P.E.I. voters.

MacLauchlan took the better part of the day Tuesday to respond to the results, opting to wait until after he had a chance to talk to his Liberal caucus of MLAs.

He says there was a general desire to see more detailed results, including a riding-by-riding breakdown of the vote tallies before any major decisions were made.

One Liberal MLA told The Guardian Tuesday there is some question as to whether the 36.5 per cent of Islanders who did vote were mainly urban voters and may not necessarily reflect the views of rural Islanders.

Green party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, who has long been a vocal proponent for electoral reform, says he sees the result as a clear mandate for change.

“There was an almost 10-point split between MMP and First-Past-the-Post in the final count,” he said.

“It strikes me there was a pretty clear message there and, even though 36 per cent may not be what we’re used to getting in general elections, I don’t think the other 64 per cent who didn’t show up think things are fine right now, I just think it wasn’t an issue that really stirred them up.”

Don Desserud, political scientist at the University of Prince Edward Island, says while the voter turnout is “frustratingly low,” MacLauchlan will have a difficult political decision to make in how to proceed.

“Quite frankly, for the people supporting PR (proportional representation) who are saying, ‘Why doesn’t this result count?’ they’ve got a valid argument,” Desserud said.

The political calculation for the Liberal government will be whether it feels it could withstand the collateral damage of ignoring or delaying any action on the plebiscite results.

“The bigger damage is people saying, ‘What the heck was that all about if you’re not serious about following through on the results? Why did you spend so much time? Why was so much money spent? Were you sincere and what else are you not sincere about?’ ”

That’s why Progressive Conservative MLA Sidney MacEwen, who was on the special legislative committee that began this electoral reform process last year, says MacLauchlan would not be wise to ignore the plebiscite results.

“Regardless of your opinion on turnout, the plebiscite resulted in a desire for change,” MacEwen said.

“Even though the premier is not a fan of PR, he and his government would ignore the results of this vote at their peril.”

 

Teresa.wright@tc.tc

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

 

 

He pointed to voter turnout of 36.5 per cent that saw Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) representation emerge the winner after four rounds of counting of the ranked ballots.

He says this turnout and the final results make it “debatable whether the plebiscite conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov.7 produced a clear majority.”

“By the fourth and final round of counting, the support for MMP represented 19 per cent of eligible voters, or fewer than one in five. It is doubtful whether these results can be said to constitute a clear expression of the will of Prince Edward Islanders.”

But just what will happen next remains a mystery. The premier would only say the results will be debated in the upcoming fall sitting of the legislature, which opens next week.

On Monday, Prince Edward Island made history in becoming the first province in Canada to endorse a form of proportional representation in a provincewide vote.

Mixed Member Proportional representation won with 19,418 votes, or 52.42 per cent. A preferential ballot was used, and telephone and online voting was employed for the first time ever in P.E.I.

The current First-Past-the-Post system was the second most popular option, receiving 15,869 votes or 42.84 per cent.

A total of 37,040 votes were cast, which translates into a turnout of 36.46 per cent of registered P.E.I. voters.

MacLauchlan took the better part of the day Tuesday to respond to the results, opting to wait until after he had a chance to talk to his Liberal caucus of MLAs.

He says there was a general desire to see more detailed results, including a riding-by-riding breakdown of the vote tallies before any major decisions were made.

One Liberal MLA told The Guardian Tuesday there is some question as to whether the 36.5 per cent of Islanders who did vote were mainly urban voters and may not necessarily reflect the views of rural Islanders.

Green party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, who has long been a vocal proponent for electoral reform, says he sees the result as a clear mandate for change.

“There was an almost 10-point split between MMP and First-Past-the-Post in the final count,” he said.

“It strikes me there was a pretty clear message there and, even though 36 per cent may not be what we’re used to getting in general elections, I don’t think the other 64 per cent who didn’t show up think things are fine right now, I just think it wasn’t an issue that really stirred them up.”

Don Desserud, political scientist at the University of Prince Edward Island, says while the voter turnout is “frustratingly low,” MacLauchlan will have a difficult political decision to make in how to proceed.

“Quite frankly, for the people supporting PR (proportional representation) who are saying, ‘Why doesn’t this result count?’ they’ve got a valid argument,” Desserud said.

The political calculation for the Liberal government will be whether it feels it could withstand the collateral damage of ignoring or delaying any action on the plebiscite results.

“The bigger damage is people saying, ‘What the heck was that all about if you’re not serious about following through on the results? Why did you spend so much time? Why was so much money spent? Were you sincere and what else are you not sincere about?’ ”

That’s why Progressive Conservative MLA Sidney MacEwen, who was on the special legislative committee that began this electoral reform process last year, says MacLauchlan would not be wise to ignore the plebiscite results.

“Regardless of your opinion on turnout, the plebiscite resulted in a desire for change,” MacEwen said.

“Even though the premier is not a fan of PR, he and his government would ignore the results of this vote at their peril.”

 

Teresa.wright@tc.tc

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

 

 

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