In the legislature, the premier has offered two arguments – each trying to shift the burden of delay onto the Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edwad Island. The delay rests solely with the governing Liberals.
Last week, the premier said he wouldn’t reveal plans for his promised referendum on electoral reform until he hears what stance the PC party takes on the issue. Well, the PC Party has a stance. They want the province to proceed as directed by the plebiscite last November.
The eight-member caucus supported the plebiscite winner - mixed member proportional representation (MMP) - by a 5-3 vote. The nay votes came from districts where a majority voted for the status quo and where MLAs felt obligated to support that result.
In the PC Party, majority rules and the caucus now supports the wishes of the majority of Islanders - MMP. The premier knows this.
Mr. MacLauchlan tweaked his remarks Wednesday to suggest he wants to delay until the PCs choose their next leader and having him or her take a position. The Conservatives are holding a convention in October to replace interim leader Jamie Fox.
It’s out of character for the Liberal Party to wait on anyone else’s agenda but its own. It had no hesitation fast tracking the last provincial election to accommodate the Liberal’s leadership and election plans. It forced the Tories to move their May 2015 leadership convention into late February.
The PC caucus is looking for action now. Party spokesman Sidney MacEwen stated plainly that the PCs feel the premier should proceed without waiting for their new leader. The party has a position. They voted and want action.
So that should put an end to the premier’s self-serving arguments, unless he thinks he also knows what’s best for the Opposition?
Mr. MacEwen noted the premier didn’t care what the PC caucus thought last fall and he’s correct when he suggests Mr. MacLauchlan keeps delaying this issue until he gets the result he wants.
The premier said the legislature would decide the referendum question. Which really means that Mr. MacLauchlan will decide. He whipped his caucus on the vote last fall when all 18 Liberals voted to reject the plebiscite result and support the premier’s binding referendum plan.
But in reality, it’s not binding at all. A new government doesn’t have to accept the referendum attached to the 2019 provincial election. It was merely an olive branch extended to placate widespread anger that the plebiscite was being ignored and further delay any electoral reform taking effect until at least 2023.
The referendum will have two options; to accept the MMP plebiscite result; and another still to be decided by the legislature. It could be status quo or something else. But it will be the premier’s decision. And we know the premier prefers First-Past-the-Post.
Pardon us if we find the premier’s sudden collegial attitude towards the PC Party a little hard to accept.