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Referendum bill held up in P.E.I. legislature

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, shown recently in the provincial legislature, spent more than an hour Tuesday night speaking to the proposed legislation on electoral reform. Also shown in the picture is MLA Brad Trivers.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, shown recently in the provincial legislature, spent more than an hour Tuesday night speaking to the proposed legislation on electoral reform. Also shown in the picture is MLA Brad Trivers. - Ryan Ross

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — The legislation needed to hold a referendum on electoral reform isn’t getting an easy ride through the legislature.

When the bill hit the floor of the legislature Tuesday night, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker rose to initiate debate on it and spoke for more than an hour.

Bevan-Baker said Premier Wade MacLauchlan promised Islanders they would have an opportunity to be included in the debate leading up to the development of the legislation.

“That has not happened,” Bevan-Baker said.

There were audible groans from some of the MLAs in the house as Bevan-Baker started to explain why he was rising to speak.

The two Green MLAs in the legislature have been vocal about their opposition to the government’s planned referendum legislation, including the timeline for appointing a referendum commissioner.

Islanders took to the polls in 2016 in a non-binding plebiscite, but the Liberal government did not implement mixed-member proportional representation despite it being the top choice.

Voter turnout was 36.5 per cent.

Bevan-Baker said a motion that called for the legislative assembly to adopt a clear referendum question didn’t receive a “fulsome debate” with only government members having a chance to speak to it.

The Green leader didn’t finish speaking to the bill Tuesday night and will have a chance to continue the next time it is called to the floor.

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