Our current voting system has failed Islanders again and again as was seen during the last election where then leader of the Progressive Conservatives, Rob Lantz, united his party by putting forth a program to Islanders that received 37 per cent of the popular vote but due to the first-past-the-post voting system the leader himself was barred entry to the legislature by his requirement to win an individual riding.
The leader of the Island New Democrats, Michael Redmond, also put forth a program that received 11 per cent of the popular vote but was unable to attain a seat in the legislature.
These outcomes are more than simple tragedies for the individual party leaders, but a loss to 37 per cent of Islanders who supported the Conservatives and the 9,000 Islanders who supported the New Democrats.
If one reviews the voting pattern across the Island during the last election, only 46.4 per cent of Islanders received the representation that they voted for, leaving 53.6 per cent of Islanders who cast their vote with a representative they did not endorse. Early returns indicated Premier Wade MacLauchlan could have himself been shut out of the legislature.
Historically, this pattern has been seen again and again, including examples of one-party rule with no opposition in the Island election of 1935, and lop-sided legislatures that resulted from the 1993 and 2000 elections, where there was only one member in opposition. These are undemocratic outcomes, but we have an opportunity to correct these imbalances by voting to introduce a measure of proportionality through the “plus leaders” option.
Any political party that receives five or 10 per cent of the popular vote has the support of approximately 4,000 to 8,000 Islanders and should be represented in the Island legislature.
Given our present system, the premier of our province could also find himself routinely dealing with constituency matters such as a knocked down mailbox, concerns best handled by an MLA dedicated to that riding alone, not the premier.
Would it not be better to have a system that served all Islanders equally – with a Premier focused on matters such as the economy, health care or future prospects for the province? I believe most Islanders would agree we want a premier and leaders whose overall focus and concern includes all of P.E.I., not just a single riding.
If the issue of seat numbers in the legislature is a concern with the “plus leaders” option, those increased numbers may be contained by restricting riding seats to 24 plus leaders, arriving at a comparable number to our current level. In fact, the “plus leaders” precedent has already been set. Mr. MacLauchlan became Premier on February 23, 2015, but was not elected to represent a riding in the legislature until May 4, 2015.
The “plus leaders” option is fully supportable, fair, keeps the best of our current system, and provides representation for all Islanders.
Dr. Herb Dickieson
Dr. Dickieson is a family physician practicing in Prince County and former member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.
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