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P.E.I. chapter critical of Premier MacLauchlan’s Bill No. 38, the Electoral System Referendum Act

Leo Cheverie and Anna Kennan say goodbye to the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation and hello to the P.E.I. Proportional Representation Network in this video. To find out how to get involved in the new PR Network, please click here.

The Council of Canadians P.E.I. chapter is a member of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation which had been planning to organize around a referendum on proportional representation that will take place at the same time as the next provincial election, which is scheduled for October 7, 2019.

The Guardian now reports, “The P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation is calling foul over the province’s upcoming referendum on electoral reform. The coalition announced Monday it will disband effective Thursday as a response to ‘repressive rules’ in the Electoral Systems Referendum Act.”

The article continues, “Coalition spokesman Leo Cheverie says the rules are ‘clearly intended to limit our work to inform and engage Islanders about the benefits of proportional representation’. …’The Referendum Act introduced by the Liberal caucus would place limits on who can work together for electoral reform. The coalition would rather disband than forcibly exclude founding, committed members of the team we built.'”

The CBC adds, “In place of the coalition the P.E.I. Proportional Representation Network is being formed. ‘The new network is intended to be a space for individual citizens to communicate and coordinate with each other to advance proportional representation on P.E.I.’, said Anna Keenan… ‘It won’t be a formal decision-making body like the coalition has been.'”

Two weeks ago, the CBC reported, “Restrictions on fundraising outlined in the P.E.I. government’s referendum bill may be unconstitutional, says [Cheverie]. …Under the legislation, the government will provide $75,000 in taxpayer funding for both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns. Beyond that, no groups will be allowed to solicit donations or otherwise raise money to pay for advertising or promotion for one side or the other.”

That article adds, “According to the legislation, the measures are intended to establish ‘a level playing field for those who wish to publicly oppose or support a change to the voting system.’ ‘We think we had a level playing field in 2016 and we won,’ said Cheverie… ‘The stated intention of the legislation is to provide a level playing field, but I think that’s a bogus argument. I think it’s raising every possible barrier to prevent PR from becoming a reality and making it as hard as possible for campaigners to succeed.'”

In November 2016, the province held a referendum on electoral reform. At that time, The Guardian reported, “The ranked ballot saw 37,040 votes cast, which translates into a turnout of 36.46 per cent. The mixed member option earned 19,418 of those votes, about 52.42 per cent. The current first past the post system was the second most popular option, receiving 15,869 votes or 42.84 per cent.” The Liberal government of Premier Wade MacLauchlan did not subsequently implement mixed-member proportional representation despite it being the top choice of voters.

Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice recently pointed out that Bill 38 means, “A double-majority is required for change: Anything less than 50% voter participation in the referendum means results can be ignored by government…and even then, a majority result for change can be ignored under some circumstances.”

CUSJ also notes, “Restrictions, including the ban on spending, are to be put in place over a pre-campaign ‘registration period’ starting on July 1, 2018 and ending when the next writ is dropped, effectively placing a gag order on groups from engaging the public on democratic reform until the election.”

Further reading
PEI chapter celebrates vote for proportional representation (November 2016)