Bill 38 — the “Electoral System Referendum Act” — looks good on the surface, doesn’t it? It’s a referendum with rules for fairness, so that Islanders can do serious thinking about how we choose our government, right?
But consider the big picture: why do we pass a law to construct a bunch of rules to specify just who can advocate for what they believe to be a good political system? What this really is — it’s an infringement on basic freedom of expression of opinion.
Our elitist governing party feels the need to stack the vote towards the status quo. It is an error to think that people who don’t vote do not care; reasonable and rational people may simply not choose either yes or no.
We should also include young people. We recognized anyone over 16 as capable to vote in the plebiscite (which was not honored), and that same group should have the right to vote in the referendum. There is no need to discount the stake of youth in the future electoral system.
Why are advocates crassly called “advertisers” rather than people who want to share information and analysis? If the government was truly interested in discussion, dialogue and debate, it would not impose such restrictions. Rather it would encourage Islanders to engage and allow us to present the best case for or against reform.
And if the province is to provide funding then it should be adequate. The approximate 50 cents per person seems woefully inadequate to engage our population in a full debate on electoral reform.
This is a piece of legislation that is more about restrictive manipulation than about democracy. I, and all the Islanders who believe in fairness, call for consultation and significant amendment of Bill 38.
Joe Byrne, P.E.I. NDP Leader,