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OPINION: Response to Gary Morgan on MMP

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Response to Gary Morgan on MMP

Hans Connor

Guest Opinion

It is important to remember that in 2016, Islanders voted for MMP (mixed member proportional representation) as their preferred choice for electoral system ahead of a variety of other choices, including the current FPTP (first-past-the-post) model.

In the March 9 opinion piece by Gary Morgan, he doesn't make clear what democratic improvements he does like. He has had lots of opportunity to persuade people and yet a majority of voters preferred MMP.

MMP is a change that Islanders are obviously comfortable with, as indicated by the plebiscite results. Like the MacLauchlan government, it appears Mr. Morgan would like to forget that plebiscite. But numbers don't lie. The accusation that Island voters are reckless for seeking meaningful improvements to our democratic institutions, as we have done many times in the past, not only flies in the face of the plebiscite results but also is an insult to the intelligence of Island voters.

The idea that MMP would take power away from voters and assign it to a nefarious faction of party goons is at best a myth and at worst a deceit. Mr. Morgan presents no information or evidence that supports this view. It is pure fear-mongering. Because MMP is a "mixed" system, we still vote for a party representative in a geographical district who is answerable to voters in that district. But also, we get a second ballot where voters have power to vote for nine candidates who are all answerable to voters all across the Island. In an "open list" MMP model, as proposed, the power remains in the hands of voters both in the district and throughout the Island. If a list candidate from any party is unpopular or makes a mistake, he or she will lose voter support and voters have the choice of at least 35 other candidates that might be more palatable. In reality, because MMP provides voters more choice, voters will actually gain more power over candidates than under the current system.

Mr. Morgan implies that adopting an MMP system will "weaken" or "infringe" basic democratic principles. This is a misconstruction of reality based on a myth. Again, there is no evidence that list candidates are any more beholden to their chosen party than district candidates. After all, according to current party constitutions, a party leader must sign the nomination papers of each and every candidate representing their party. If Mr. Morgan is concerned about how his chosen party operates, he needs to deal with that internally in his party.

MMP addresses a different set of concerns related to lop-sided majorities and popular vote not being reflected in the legislature. It is disappointing that Mr. Morgan is perpetuating groundless myths about MMP rather than explaining the benefits he sees in the current system. Maybe he sees no benefits worth highlighting? Instead, he utilizes over-the-top rhetoric like "dangerous" and "paralyzing," without any supporting information, in an attempt to appeal to our worst fears. Fortunately, the only fear I sense about P.E.I. adopting MMP is from political elites whose parties will no longer be over-rewarded at the expense of average voters.

Hans Connor is a lawyer in Charlottetown and formerly served on the 2005 Commission on P.E.I.'s Electoral Future.

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