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Election in the air: P.E.I. electoral reform referendum campaigning period begins Feb. 1

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s cabinet has officially kicked off the start of the campaigning period for a referendum on electoral reform, in what could be a confirmation that a provincial election is looming,

The referendum, which will be held at the same time as the next provincial election, must now be held within an eight-month period. As of Feb. 1, limits on spending and advertising by advocacy groups both for and against electoral reform will be in effect until the referendum takes place.

The start of the referendum period is a sign the province will likely see an election as early as spring. Past practice from the province has been to avoid calling elections either in the summer or during a federal election cycle. The federal election will take place in October.

The start of the referendum period means Premier MacLauchlan could call an election shortly after the Progressive Conservative party selects its new leader. The PCs will vote on their next leader on Feb. 9.

Advocates for or against changing the Island’s electoral system from the current ‘first-past-the-post’ system to mixed member proportional can now apply to the province for up to $75,000 in public funds. The deadline for applications for a share of these funds is 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb 15. The application form can be found at referendumpei.ca.

Voters will be asked to vote on whether they would like to switch from a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system to mixed member proportional (MMP).

The province’s referendum commissioner has been holding a series of public information sessions over the course of January. The information sessions provide detailed explanations of the FPTP and MMP systems. More community sessions are planned over February and March. The schedule can be found at referendumpei.ca.

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FPTP or MMP?

  • First Past the Post, the current system, involves voters in 27 electoral districts electing a representative to the legislature from the political party of their choice. The party that holds the majority of electoral district becomes the government.
  • In Mixed Member Proportional, each voter would have two votes. One vote would be for their local representative in one of 18 electoral districts. The other vote would be a proportional vote. Voters would choose from a slate of nine candidates selected by each party. The party with the highest combined number of representatives elected from both local and proportional lists would form government.

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