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OPINION: A tale of two provinces

Graphic compares P.E.I.'s and B.C.'s referendum legislation packages.
Graphic compares P.E.I.'s and B.C.'s referendum legislation packages. (Submitted) - Bill McGuire

A comparison of P.E.I.’s and B.C.’s referendum legislation offers stark differences



Since the Electoral System Referendum Act (Bill C-38) was tabled in the P.E.I. Legislature on May 10, 2018, there has been considerable criticism of the bill, a bill that was produced after an extensive wait on the part of the public and without any call for public input.

Critics have pointed out that the fines are much larger than those in the provincial Elections Act, that the Referendum Act is vague and too restrictive, limiting freedom of speech.

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A number of times it has been suggested by various critics, that the legislation as it stands is not constitutional and could not withstand a court challenge. (There were a number of amendments subsequently tabled).

On May 30, B.C. Attorney General, George Eby tabled his recommendations for legislation for the referendum on proportional representation that is to be held there, by mail-in ballot, between October 22 and November 30 of this year. These recommendations were drafted after an extensive consultation with the public and seem to reflect the input provided.

While there are restrictions on fundraising in B.C., no out of province or union or corporate donations are allowed, the fines are considerably smaller than what is proposed here. Significantly, groups outside of the official proponent and opponent groups, including political parties, are allowed to campaign as well, although there are spending limits.

To date, there have been not been the same concerns over the limitation of free speech that we have had with Bill C38 on the Island and no questions of the constitutionality of any legislation that would be produced out of these recommendations.

As the Island embarks on this democratic exercise, it might be instructive to see how other provinces are travelling down the same road.

Islanders are encouraged to compare the two original legislative packages.

- Brenda Oslawsky lives in Spring Valley and was a member of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation and is vice-president of Fair Vote Canada.

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