P.E.I. legislature debates changing number of MLAs

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The debate over reviewing how many MLAs Prince Edward Island should have made its way to the legislature floor, but won’t go any further for now after the legislature closed for the winter.

Province House.File Photo

Morell-Mermaid MLA Olive Crane brought her motion calling for the review up for debate Thursday and said it was important for the public to get involved in the conversation.

“I think it’s important that their voice is known,” she said.

Crane’s motion called for public consultations on potentially changing the number of MLAs in the province with a recommendation then sent on to Elections P.E.I.

There are 27 MLAs in the legislature in a province of about 145,000.

That means there are more than 5,300 people for every MLA compared to about 36,000 for each of P.E.I.’s MPs.

Crane said with the problems Islanders are facing she would expect to hear them say they need more money, not more politicians.

“I think now is the time, more than ever, that we start this discussion and allow people to give input and let somebody else make the final decision,” she said.

In order to get her motion on the floor, Crane needed someone to second it, which government house leader Sonny Gallant did, although when he rose to speak to it he said it didn’t mean he supported it.

Charlottetown-Victoria Park MLA Richard Brown also spoke to the motion Thursday and although he said it was good to have a debate about electoral reform every once in a while, he didn’t think there were too many MLAs.

Brown used New Hampshire, which has 400 representatives and 24 senators in its state legislature, as an example of a place with a lot of representation in government.

“More representation is better,” he said.

New Hampshire’s population is about 1.3 million, which means there are about 3,000 people for every elected state official.

Those officials are paid $200 per two-year term, plus mileage costs while the speaker of the house and the senate president make $250.

Brown said any Islander would say they know most of their MLAs and some of them can’t even go to the grocery without getting stopped by constituents.

“A lot of the time at Sobeys there is more politics going on in the aisleways than there is in the legislature of Prince Edward Island. We get more comments there.”

The debate adjourned for the day before Brown finished his comments and MLAs weren’t able to vote on the motion before the house closed for the winter Friday.

Organizations: Sobeys

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, New Hampshire

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