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'No' side pleased with status quo after P.E.I. electoral reform referendum

John Barrett wants to see Islanders vote no when it comes to electoral reform in the next provincial election. Two groups have registered with Referendum P.E.I. to act as official advertisers, one against reform — No What to Vote — and one for reform — Vote Yes P.E.I.
John Barrett helmed the group No What to Vote. - SaltWire file photo

It was closer than they expected, but it was what they were looking for.

The majority of voters in Tuesday’s referendum question opted to keep the current first-past-the-post system.

John Barrett of the No side said that was the goal.

“I was perhaps a little surprised that it was as close as it was, but at the end of the day, I think that our side prevailed in a fair and square manner,” Barrett told The Guardian Wednesday.

A referendum vote calling for electoral reform was held along with the provincial general election April 23, where voters received two ballots – one to vote for the candidate of their choice and the other to vote on whether they’d like to see electoral reform.

Unofficial results from Elections P.E.I. showed 51 per cent of voters chose to maintain the status quo, while 49 per cent voted for a mixed member proportional (MMP) system.

The referendum threshold was set at 50 per cent plus one of voters in 60 per cent of the districts to be declared the winner, which meant that in order for the Yes side to be honoured, it had to win 17 districts.

The results showed the Yes side took 15 districts, while the No side took 12.

Barrett said he wasn’t surprised by the districts that voted to keep the status quo.

“I assumed that rural Prince Edward Island would be strong No supporters and that the urban areas not as much,” he said. “We were hopeful, and to a certain degree confident, that we would carry the day.”

In an interview Tuesday, a representative from the Yes side said the fight for electoral reform wasn’t over.

Barrett said if further change was suggested, those with similar opinions to the No side would look to see if the proposed change is a good idea or not and said the No side isn’t opposed to electoral reform, just to MMP.

“There’s a lengthy list of issues that we have with MMP, and that’s why we stepped up and spent the time that we did trying to convince the general public of the same.”

Barrett said having the referendum alongside the election was a good idea and said there was enough time for both sides of the question to get their message out to the public.

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