P.E.I. turned some heads for extending the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds in the Plebiscite on Electoral Reform last year. Before the vote, there had been information in the schools, but schedules in high school years are full and not much class time could be given to dissect and really discuss the various options. However, turnout from this group was about the same as other groups, and younger voters strongly chose proportional representation (PR) systems.
My 16-year-old-son and his voting age-siblings voted in the plebiscite last year, a right they dutifully executed. These young voters, just like many Islanders, realized what progress could be made, with P.E.I. leading the way.
The next day I saw their expressions when the premier smothered the whole process by tossing out conditions that should have been made clear before the ballot was approved. I saw their expressions upon seeing video clips of presumably educated Liberal MLAs making speeches full of inaccuracies and fear mongering about PR (see the Legislative Assembly Hansard or Video Archives for November 18, 2016), when discussing the Premier’s duplicitous Motion 80.
Young voters understood that the crowded ballot, the short timeframe, and lukewarm government engagement had an effect on turnout. They also knew that when you sat in small groups with people of any age, from 10 to 100, and answered all their questions on all options, Islanders sat back and realized PR wasn’t to be feared; it was the future of a truly mighty little Island.
For a person who prides himself on the time spent working in post-secondary institutions for the future of our youth, who made promises of government working toward real democratic reform, Premier MacLauchlan is ready to stall progress and youth engagement for a decade. But there still is time.
Mr. Premier: Institute Mixed Member Proportional for the next two general elections, then hold a referendum to evaluate it. Honour the voters, especially those voters who are our Island’s future.
- Chris Ortenburger of Bonshaw is in the Citizens’ Alliance of P.E.I, which is a member organization of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation