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PEI chapter at ‘Rally for Democracy’ at Province House

The Council of Canadians Prince Edward Island chapter participated in an Honour the Vote rally in front of the Legislature in Charlottetown this evening.

Chapter activist Betty Wilcox tells us, “There were about 400 people in attendance. There were some excellent speeches made and the crowd rallied behind the speakers with cheers, applause and chants of ‘Honour the Vote’. Much to my surprise PEI’s Premier Wade MacLaughlin came outside to address the crowd.”

In terms of background, a plebiscite on electoral reform was held on PEI between October 29 and November 7. The Canadian Press reports, “Islanders were given five options to chose from, including an option to keep the existing first-past-the-post system. Voters were asked to rank some or all of the option on a one-to-five scale.” On November 7, 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.”

That evening, chapter activist Leo Broderick commented, “This is indeed a night for rejoicing. Achieving a vote for Proportional Representation on PEI is quite an achievement. The Premier and all his MLAs as well as all the Conservative MLAs did not support Proportional Representation. The only MLA who supported PR was Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker. We will get change with this vote.”

Shortly after the vote, MacLauchlan began questioning whether the 36.5 per cent voter turnout was sufficient to consider the plebiscite an accurate reflection of the opinion of Islanders. The premier had set no threshold for the vote in advance of the plebiscite. His government also exercises majority control of the Legislature even though they received just 40.8 per cent of the vote in the May 2015 election. And MacLauchlan maintains his view despite a poll conducted between November 10-13 that found that 56 per cent of Islanders believe the results of the plebiscite should be respected.

As it became clear that the provincial Liberal government didn’t intend to honour the vote, Broderick posted, “It’s time to take a note from people who decided that dictatorial actions are not in the interest of the people. Remember Madison, Wisconsin and the Arab Spring in Tunisia in 2011. In these places, people simply said we have had enough and we will turn up at at the Legislature and we won’t go away. When a small group of people make that decision to protest and fight for democratic reform, the numbers in support will grow. We need to begin this on [November 22]. And be there every day!”

On November 21, Broderick added, “Honour the Vote Movement is growing. People are angry. Why not show up at the Legislature tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 with a simple sign saying HONOUR THE VOTE.”

On November 22, the Liberals used their majority in the PEI legislature to vote down Motion 54, which had been put forward by the Green Party. Motion 54 called on the government to honour the vote and implement Mixed Member Proportional Representation in time for the next provincial election to be held on October 7, 2019.

Rather than honouring the vote, the government put forward Motion 80, which calls for a binding referendum to be held in conjunction with the next election.

Broderick comments, “There has never been a referendum in the history of Canada either federal or provincially where a referendum was held on the same date as a general election. The reason is obvious. A referendum is binding on the government that calls for the referendum. It is not binding on a newly elected government or a future government. Unless Premier Wade MacLauchlan has more powers to see into the future than most of us – it is not a given HE will form or even be part of the next elected government in the province.”

On November 23, the Guardian reported, “MacLauchlan admitted his so-called binding referendum would not, in legal terms, actually be binding.” That same day, CBC reported, “there is no schedule for when or if more debate or a vote may happen” on the provincial government’s Motion 80.

This evening’s rally was organized by the PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation, of which our PEI chapter is a member.