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Choosing sides: Groups for and against electoral reform have registered with Referendum P.E.I.

John Barrett wants to see Islanders vote no when it comes to electoral reform in the next provincial election. Two groups have registered with Referendum P.E.I. to act as official advertisers, one against reform — No What to Vote — and one for reform — Vote Yes P.E.I.
John Barrett wants to see Islanders vote no when it comes to electoral reform in the next provincial election. Two groups have registered with Referendum P.E.I. to act as official advertisers, one against reform — No What to Vote — and one for reform — Vote Yes P.E.I. - Jim Day
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

The camps for and against electoral reform on P.E.I. are ready to begin educating Island voters.

Two groups have registered so far with Referendum P.E.I., one week after the referendum period began — one which calls itself No What to Vote that will argue for the status quo and another one called Vote Yes P.E.I. that wants a mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system

A vote on electoral reform will be on the ballot during the next provincial election.

John Barrett, who speaks for No What to Vote, said the yes side will try to convince Islanders change is needed for a number of reasons.

“The yes side will try and convince the public that . . . this will now provide more opportunity for minorities, for women (to run) and that’s simply not true,’’ Barrett said. “There is no mechanism that is going to result in more gender-balanced, minority representation. It’s simply not true.’’

Barrett also argues against the fact that an MMP system is better because it would stop lopsided majorities, explaining that it would weaken decision-making.

“There will be compromise on issues that the public weren’t really intending to see . . . (and) minority federal governments have had an average shelf life of 18 months so we’re going to continuously be in this electioneering mode. People will have to compromise beyond what the electorate had intended.’’

Leo Cheverie speaks for Vote Yes P.E.I. group - The Canadian Press/File photo
Leo Cheverie speaks for Vote Yes P.E.I. group - The Canadian Press/File photo

 

Leo Cheverie, who speaks for Vote Yes P.E.I., argues the legislature needs to reflect the desire of the electorate.

“Canada is one of the few countries that has a first-past-the-post system and doesn’t have a system that reflects the votes that people make,’’ Cheverie said. “It also means that you no longer have false majorities. It reflects the vote that people make, and I think it’s a system that’s co-operative.’’

Cheverie said reform would give people more faith in politics because it would create change that would force parties to work together more than they do now in a system he said is far too adversarial.

Cheverie said his side is going to try to engage Islanders and educate them about reform.

“Part of that is knowing that fairness is a very important part of making sure that all votes count and that the legislature reflects the votes of Islanders.’’

Cheverie cites one example where Ontario Premier Doug Ford got 100 per cent of the power despite hauling in fewer than 40 per cent of the popular vote.

“We don’t want to have any of these false majorities. In P.E.I., we’ve had too many. You can’t have an effective democracy without an effective Opposition.’’

The deadline to apply to Referendum P.E.I. to be a registered advertiser is Feb. 11. There is a pool of $150,000 of public money that can be used to buy advertising space and pay for campaign materials like signs, flyers and posters or cover administrative costs.

If, come deadline, there are just the two yes and no sides, they will split the money. If more groups register the pool just keeps getting smaller.

Matt MacLeod, with Referendum P.E.I., said the commissioner will have notices of approved registered referendum advertisers early next week, while the deadline for them to submit their interest in public money is Feb. 15.

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