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PEI votes to keep first-past-the-post

Yesterday in a ballot referendum, PEI residents opted not to change their voting system from first-past-the-post to mixed-member proportional representation (MMP). Still, a record number of Islanders thought the change in electoral system was a good idea.

Islanders were asked to vote “yes” or “no” to the following question: Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?

According to the CBC, “more than 50 per cent of Islanders voted ‘no.’ ‘Yes’ was the popular choice in 15 ridings, but only took around 49 per cent of the popular vote.

P.E.I.’s Referendum Act required a “yes” vote to meet two thresholds to trigger a change: the support of a majority of Island voters in the referendum (50 per cent, plus one vote), and majority support in at least 60 per cent of the Island’s electoral districts (17 of 27 districts).

The Council of Canadians PEI Chapter worked hard as part of the “Vote Yes PEI” campaign to gain support for a change to MMP in the province.

“We are disappointed by the result of the referendum, however, it shows a significant portion of PEI – 49% in 15 Districts – support Mixed Member Proportional (MMP),” said a Yes campaign press release. “Under first-past-the-post we would have won a majority! It’s now the responsibility of the PEI Legislature to respect that strong voice. Every time there has been a deliberative process, an inquiry, or a recommendation it has recommended moving beyond first-past-the -post, and that the issue of electoral reform is far from over.”

Campaign activists are calling on the government to convene a Citizens’ Assembly to study the issue and determine a path to reform that the majority of Islanders can accept.

“In the last 15 years, support for proportional representation on PEI has increased significantly. Almost 40,000 Islanders supported MMP in this referendum, more than double the 19,418 in the 2016 plebiscite, and much more than the 11,750 that supported MMP in the 2005 plebiscite. This is a clear sign that more and more Islanders know that proportional representation is the change we need to make Island democracy even better.” 

The Council of Canadians has long-supported proportional representation as more democratic than our outdated first-past-the-post voting system. Proportional representation provides a fairer representation of votes cast and prevents a governing party from holding total power after gaining only a small percentage of the popular vote.

In the provincial election held at the same time, PEI voted in a minority government for the first time in modern history. Coalition governments haven’t existed on the Island since the 1870s. Also historic was the Green Party winning the role of Official Opposition. This is a first for Greens in Canada. PEI’s Green Party is led by Peter Bevan-Baker.