Is it time for change? Prince Edward islanders voice their opinions on electoral reform

By Brenlee Brothers

Oct. 28, 2016

Carol Carragher has voted for all four electoral parties on P.E.I. over the years.

So a plebiscite on reforming the election process is a terrific opportunity, Carragher said at the CBC forum on electoral reform on Oct. 27.

“It’s an opportunity to show the country that we are moving forward.”

Carragher was one of many Islanders who spoke on electoral reform during the CBC public forum at Stonepark Intermediate School.

The forum featured five panellists, each representing one of the five voting options on the electoral reform ballot in the provincial plebiscite. The forum was hosted by Island Morning’s Matt Rainnie and was live-streamed across the country.

Islanders can cast their ballots from Oct. 29 until Nov. 7, with an option to vote online through the entire period, or in person from Nov. 4-5. The plebiscite is not binding on the government.

Lynne Lund is the deputy leader of Green Party P.E.I. She stood for one of two proportional representation options, the dual-member proportional system.

“In my mind, we should be choosing a system that reflects and allows people to work together to bring all voices to the table and change the culture of our legislature to one that is collaborative.”

Richard Brown is a Liberal MLA in Charlottetown.

The first-past-the-post system has built this country and has provided a lot of benefits, such a medicare, education and the Canada Pension Plan, he said.

When critical and tough decisions have to be made, you need a majority government, Brown said.

“You need a person in charge that can make that decision.”

Confidence in the legislature is important when critical decisions have to be made, and FPP is the best system for that, he said.

Dr. Herb Dickieson is a former NDP MLA. He sat in the middle of the five panellists, and appropriately so as he stands for first-past-the-post, plus leaders.

In the last election, only 46 per cent of Islanders got the outcome they voted for, a Liberal government, he said. Which means over half of Islander’s did not get what they voted for.

“I believe, with a small modification, we can change the system so that every Islander will be represented in the legislature.”

By having more voices in the legislature with different points of view, Islanders can produce better legislation and more satisfaction in terms of Islander’s voting preferences, Dickieson said.

Mark Greenan is the campaign manager for the P.E.I. coalition for proportional representation. He stood for the second PR option on the plebiscite ballot, mixed-member proportional representation.

People should take this opportunity to change Island politics for the better, he said.

“There are three choices on the ballot that are different flavours of the same old status-quo, winner-take-all politics,” he said.

There are two options on the ballot that will produce fair results, more accountable government and end lopsided legislatures, giving Island voters a better democracy, he said.

“In the spring of 2015 I was overjoyed to see a premier take office who promised a more open and collaborative government.”

The two proportional representation options will help the Island achieve those goals in our democracy, he said.

Paula Biggar, a member of the legislature, was the fifth panellist in the forum. Biggar supports the preferential ballot for a number reasons.

“We actually only had six members of the 27 that were elected by over 50 per cent plus one majority,” she said.

The preferential system would solve that complaint, because you have to get 50 per cent plus one.

“We’re about to embark on a very important decision for Prince Edward Island.”

With the preferential ballot, if there are three candidates, the voter gets to choose their preferred candidate and also their second if they want to support someone else, she said.

Greg Bradley is self-employed and has been educating people on proportional representation because the government has not been doing an adequate job, he said.

“People are so insulted that they have not been informed.”

Elections P.E.I. was given a budget of $750,000 to inform the public about the plebiscite, yet many people he’s spoken to say they have not learned enough, Bradley said.

“I’m vibrating here I’m so angry.”

Theresa Doyle was a Green party candidate in the recent provincial election.

This plebiscite is an opportunity for P.E.I. to lead the country, she said.

P.E.I.’s electoral system has been progressing for years and this is just one more step in making it to a modern democracy, like so many other countries around the world, she said.

“We’re ready to embrace a forward thinking, smart, modern system.”