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NOW Atlantic: Smart thinking for a changing world
There is widespread belief that our electoral system on Prince Edward Island needs reform. This is part of a national trend that Canadians have been talking about for years. A consensus among four political parties representing a majority of Quebec voters promises to bring in proportional representation there during 2019. Canadians want a proportional electoral system reflecting the reality of Canadian opinion and how we actually vote.
Nationally, study after study has recommended some form of proportional system where every vote counts, and not just as a winning or losing vote in a first-past-the-post (FPTP) runoff at the district level. Under a mixed member proportional (MMP) system, on voting day you have a second vote, this one for your favourite party representative that you choose from a list of best Island-wide candidates put forward by each of the parties. This is called an “open list MMP” system because the voter chooses who wins.
on the results of the 2016 plebiscite “open list MMP” is the system preferred by Islanders. Islanders liked the “open list” as early as 2005. In the 2005 plebiscite, even the proponents of the “winner take all” FPTP, while opposing the closed list on offer, expressed interest in “open list MMP” where voters choose who wins, such as is on the table in the referendum to be held simultaneously with the next provincial election.
Why do Islanders of all stripes and beliefs like it? This “made in P.E.I.” version of MMP is in every way a moderate change. Two-thirds of elected MLAs will still be elected by first-past-the-post at the district level. The remaining MLAs will be determined from the most popular choices of the voters expressed in their second vote in order to make the party standings reflect the Island-wide popular vote. It’s easy, the percentage of seats won is equal to the percentage of the vote received!
MMP will cause the parties to behave differently, leading to more collaborative consensus-based and stable governing. Policy “lurch,” where a successive government eliminates or reverses the impacts of the previous government, would be prevented. Having two votes under MMP will transfer more of the power to the voter, away from the old patronage ways that political parties practiced for their own gain in the past.
The difference between our current FPTP and the proposed MMP system is that your voice goes from gambling to win (or lose) every four years under FPTP to carrying, under MMP, a consistent strength or weight in proportion to others across the Island who share your views. MMP will move P.E.I. away from the weakness of a gamble for you, the voter, toward a strong reflection of our power and diversity of views as citizens. MMP offers hope for more representative and more stable governance for all Islanders.
For a fair voting system, be positive, vote Yes for MMP in the referendum coming soon.
Fred Horne of Nine Mile Creek is one of the principals of “Vote YES P.E.I.”