BY MARIE BURGE
The P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation is raising concerns about the content and intent of the Electoral Boundaries Commission’s sample maps for mixed member proportional representation (MMP).
The content of the so-called MMP maps is misleading to the public. These maps give the false impression that the core of MMP is that there will be 18 electoral districts. However, the true essence of MMP is that there are 18 electoral district seats, plus 9 province-wide seats, all of which are decided in a provincial election by P.E.I. voters. There will be 18 district MLAs and 9 province-wide MLAs for a total of 27 MLAs in the Legislature. Each Islander will have their own district MLA, plus having access to any or all of the nine province-wide MLAs.
In the various community consultations thus far on the designed MMP maps, the chair of the Electoral Boundaries Commission declares at the beginning that his commission was mandated only to show the 18 possible electoral districts. Members of the public are bringing up the issue that the maps are actually hiding the true reality of mixed member proportional representation. It appears that the commission, because of its limited mandate, cannot deal with what is missing from the maps.
The P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation has produced a video as a way of graphically presenting the MMP system of 18 district seats and nine province-wide seats. (https://youtu.be/2d6gMziavYc)
This brings us to the question of the intent in presenting these sample (and misleading) MMP maps to Islanders. The first reaction of the Coalition for Proportional Representation, and many others, was that this is a deliberate and shameful attempt to foster opposition to MMP in rural P.E.I. It is important to note at this point that the conventional electoral boundaries review (required after every third election) has been hurting rural P.E.I. for many years. Under MMP, rural Islanders will get a new advantage as will many other sectors and cultural, gender, and political interests in the P.E.I. make-up.
What is most disturbing for the PR promoters is that the premier identified the MMP maps as an educational tool. First of all, it is important to point out that people are not educated by tools. Secondly, presenting the maps as educational shows a deep disconnect with how productive community education happens.
Islanders who want to learn about electoral systems and about how real democracy works are best served by community-development-style education. This model begins with acknowledging the vast knowledge that people already possess. It designs programs and processes which encourage teachers and learners to interact as equals to share old knowledge and new knowledge.
Nobody learns well in a system that imposes viewpoints. The dog and pony show style, no matter how slick the videos, posters, diagrams and social media interconnectedness, is an inefficient teaching-learning style. It involves high cost input and low level of learning results.
The P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation and its members urge the Government of P.E.I. to find a way to initiate and fund a transparent educational effort in preparation for the referendum on two electoral systems. This referendum is to be held in conjunction with the provincial election in 2019.
- Marie Burge, on behalf of Cooper Institute, member of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional representation