Earlier this week a UPEI student arrived home with a brochure that was distributed in his political science class by a guest presenter. We, as the No What To Vote group, were curious about both the content of the literature, and frankly were disappointed that the person teaching the course only decided to invite an individual from one side of the referendum argument. When we contacted the person responsible for this class, we were told that we could not present to the class (as the YES side representative had done), and the best they could do was hand out any flyers we might have. I suppose it’s the lecturer’s prerogative to invite or not invite who they wish, but we had thought that a publicly funded institution of higher learning might have been more open minded to opposing and factual ideas.
As it turns out, the referendum commissioner has had some very interesting things to say about the literature that was distributed to these students and has issued a press release which states, amongst other things, that “It has come to my attention that an organization calling itself P.E.I. Proportional Representation (PR) Network acting as an unregistered referendum advertiser is soliciting money from citizens who would like to contribute money toward printing informational brochures about mixed member proportional representation.”
He goes on to state that “I have sent an email to them directing them to cease and desist from violating the ESRA and to return any illegal contributions they may have received.” As if this were not enough of an indication that ‘dirty tricks’ seems to be at play in this referendum fight, the brochure itself makes statements that simply are not true – statements such as the fact that MMP (mixed member proportional) will elect more women. There is no mechanism in MMP that either requires or facilitates the election of more women or minorities to the provincial legislature; this is simply not true. Statements such as the fact that every vote counts, not true. Every ballot cast in the first-past-the-post system is counted and members are elected based on who receives the most votes; under MMP, all the ballots are counted but due to the convoluted mechanism of the second ballot there will be thousands of votes that will not count towards the number of seats allocated.
The brochure goes on to say that MMP will bring about fixed election dates. FYI, Prince Edward Island already has fixed election date legislation in place. The Election Act states in section 4.1.2.(b) “…general elections shall be held on the first Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following ordinary polling day in the most recent general election.” Naturally there are provisions for moving that date if it coincides with a Federal election. Again, this brochure is misleading the general public into thinking that MMP will produce wonderful things that don’t already exist.
Shame on the P.E.I. PR Network and shame on the University of Prince Edward Island for facilitating the distribution of such material without considering the credibility or legality of such. First-Past-The-Post has served our province, and our colony before that, well for the past 168 years. The MMP system proposed is confusing, complicated and endangers the very democratic structure we have used with great success. We encourage the voting public to try and separate fact from fiction and learn the true downside that continued minority governments will bring and how that will stagnate the continued growth we have enjoyed together.
John Barrett (No What To Vote), Charlottetown.