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EDITORIAL: Guardian's opinion split on MMP for P.E.I.

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Voting. - SaltWire File Photo

On Tuesday, voters will not only elect a new government, they will take part in a referendum which will lay out how we will elect our governments in future elections.

The question, “Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?”

The answers, a simple No or Yes.

We have closely weighed the arguments for and against MMP and find ourselves as divided as the Islanders in our poll coverage Saturday: 


Just say no to MMP

Prince Edward Island needs electoral reform, but mixed member proportional, also known an MMP is not the answer.

The current first-past-the-post system is a time-tested system, one which has been in place even before Confederation, and provides strong, stable majority governments.

MMP almost certainly guarantees minority governments in years to come and relies heavily on consensus-style governments. The Yes side argues that provides better oversight and accountability. We say it’s a recipe for disaster.

Like it or not, some schools may need to close. Dramatic changes need to be implemented to fix what ails our health-care system. Our government bureaucracy is too large and needs to be reined in.

A minority government, trying to make difficult decisions through a consensus-style of government, would be deadlocked.

And we would all pay the price.

The outcome, an uncontrollable deficit that could threaten the province’s very existence.

Under MMP, rural Prince Edward Island’s voice will be severely diminished. The current 27 districts will be reduced to 18. Those remaining 18 districts get much larger, especially in rural P.E.I. The remaining nine MLAs will be elected from a list, controlled by political parties, and accountable to no one.

The Yes side argues MMP would ensure the percentage of the vote is more closely reflected in the seat count in the P.E.I. legislature. The Yes side describes votes cast for parties who are not under first-past-the-post as “wasted”. This is a notion we take issue with.

In the current system there are winners and losers. But describing anybody’s vote as “wasted” is an insult to Island voters.

The Green party, a huge proponent of MMP, has proven that parties outside of the traditional big two – the Liberal party and the PC party – can and do get elected.

There is enough cynicism about our political process now.

People need to know and truly understand how a candidate gets a seat in the P.E.I. legislature. For all of these reasons, and more, we’re saying Islanders need to vote “no” in Tuesday’s electoral reform referendum.


Brenda Oslawski of Vote Yes P.E.I. and John Barrett of No What to Vote have been leading opposing campaigns in parallel with the provincial elections. Oslawski believes a change to a mixed member proportional system would result in a legislature that more accurately reflects the votes of Islanders. Barrett believes MMP would result in a loss of democratic voice for rural regions and that it would place too much power in the hands of political parties. - File photo
Brenda Oslawski of Vote Yes P.E.I. and John Barrett of No What to Vote have been leading opposing campaigns in parallel with the provincial elections. Oslawski believes a change to a mixed member proportional system would result in a legislature that more accurately reflects the votes of Islanders. Barrett believes MMP would result in a loss of democratic voice for rural regions and that it would place too much power in the hands of political parties. - File photo

MMP: The ayes have it

Prince Edward Island is steeped in a history of strong, majority governments elected under a first-past-the-post system. They certainly can take decisive action on controversial topics, but do they always have Islanders’ best interests at heart?

A Guardian front-page headline from 1935 described the Liberal sweep of all 30 seats in the legislature at that time as a “dictatorship” and our editorial predecessors were not far off.

In that election, the Conservatives earned 42.1 per cent of the votes but no seats. If all those 31,840 Islanders – more than a third of everyone who cast a ballot – had never shown up to the polls at all, the results would have been the same. That kind of lop-sided victory that ignores the intentions of half the voters (or more if votes against a candidate are split between two or more other parties) can only happen under first-past-the-post.

What that leaves Islanders with is a government that doesn’t truly reflect the people it is governing and which is accountable to no one.

We know that majority governments are able to pass legislation quickly and make tough decisions on topics like health care and education. But if it really is the right call for P.E.I., we should be able to trust a minority government to come to the same conclusion. And maybe a sober second thought is warranted.

We saw more Opposition bills get passed than ever before in the last sitting of the P.E.I. legislature. This proves our elected officials can work together, no matter their political stripe.

We have also witnessed PC and NDP leaders team up on a video looking for solutions to the housing crunch in this province. All four party leaders have been very collegial during their many debates and forums leading up to the election.

Let’s give them the chance to carry out that co-operation inside the rail, in a mix of seats that more accurately reflects the values and wishes of those they represent. Vote “yes” on Tuesday.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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