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Public referendum meetings wrap up Summerside

Referendum commissioner Gerard Mitchell makes his final presentation on electoral reform in Summerside on Thursday, April 11.
Referendum commissioner Gerard Mitchell makes his final presentation on electoral reform in Summerside on Thursday, April 11. - Alison Jenkins
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

Ronnie Rayner left his seat to better address the audience during the final public information session on electoral reform held Thursday at the College of Piping.

Microphone in hand, Rayner called the nine list MLAs proposed under the mixed-member proportional system “wannabes” who “couldn’t find a seat if they worked in a furniture store.”

This received a bark of laughter from Referendum Commissioner Gerard Mitchell.

Rayner though, is in favour of MMP. He pointed to the unbalanced governments resulting from the 1993 and 2000 provincial elections.  

“I would much sooner see a coalition government,” said Rayner, “I do not want to see what happened many years ago when we went through four years with one Conservative then, the next election, we went through four years with one Liberal. That is not good government in any way, shape or form. If we have a minority or we have a coalition, at least somebody is going to be held accountable.”

“There are still a lot of people out there, I feel, who don’t know. They either don’t know because they think they know, or they don’t care and they’re just going to say ‘well we’re just gonna mark it so we do what we always did.’” - Gerard Mitchell

Time’s up

Thursday was the last public information meeting Mitchell had scheduled. After over 20 events, Mitchell refined his approach.

“If I talk a little less and allow more time for questions, it works better for everybody,” he said.

Overall, he’s disappointed in the turnout to the public meetings. Some events he had up to 80, one meeting though had only two.

“This issue of the electoral system is pretty low on people’s priorities these days,” Mitchell observed.

He’s not so worried about the people who are coming out to the meetings, they’re “fine-tuning” their point of view, he said.

Mitchell is worried, however, about the Islanders who are getting their information “at the kitchen table” - from friends or family.

“There are still a lot of people out there, I feel, who don’t know. They either don’t know because they think they know, or they don’t care and they’re just going to say ‘well we’re just gonna mark it so we do what we always did.’”

“We take these things for granted, they’ve always been done the same way. Even if this is difficult and not concrete, at least there’s the engagement.” - Susan DiCarlo

Fresh eyes

New to P.E.I., Susan and Mario DiCarlo are not new to electoral adventure. They have just lived through New Brunswick election which left the province with a minority government and a hotly contested premiership.

The DiCarlos asked several questions at the electoral reform meeting and had attended the forum on water use as well.

They were excited to be part of such a significant election.

“We take these things for granted, they’ve always been done the same way,” said Susan. “Even if this is difficult and not concrete, at least there’s the engagement.”

The DiCarlos were enthused by the opportunity for people to “speak up and be strong.”

“Being on the forefront of things that could be wonderful in the world – P.E.I. is so uniquely positioned to that,” she said.

Twitter.com/AlisonEBC

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