Following province-wide discussions, the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal has submitted its report to the 2nd Session of the 65th Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island and has refined a plebiscite question for consideration to the Assembly.
Mandated to guide public engagement and make recommendations in response to the White Paper on Democratic Renewal, the Special Committee sought input as widely as possible with experts, interest groups and Islanders of all ages, including many youth, during these past few months.
The Special Committee on Democratic Renewal continued to host additional community forums this winter across Prince Edward Island, advancing its study of electoral systems as per its interim report tabled in the House on November 27, 2015. The committee received close to 1,000 comments/presentations, either at the public forums in person or via the website and social media.
Jordan Brown, Chair of the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal Committee explained, “The Special Committee was able to reach a consensus on a plebiscite question, however, the topic garnered a lot of debate, even amongst committee members. All committee members were so impressed with the caliber of input received from so many people. As we have explained throughout this process, this Special Committee, working by consensus, feels that the residents of Prince Edward Island continue to have a critical role in this exercise and ultimately to the democratic process itself.”
As per one of the recommendations in the report, Elections PEI will be the lead for the education process during the months leading up to the proposed November 2016 plebiscite. The goal of this phase will be to provide information to the public on the electoral options in the plebiscite question. The Special Committee remains keenly interested in this pre-plebiscite phase and will act in an advisory capacity for Elections PEI. It is the committee’s intent that information will be accessible and be offered in a variety of formats to all Islanders.
Beyond consideration of a plebiscite question, other matters relating to democratic renewal were brought forward before the committee. These matters will be included in upcoming reports to the Members of the Legislative Assembly as further input is sought and recommendations are finalized.
The Special Committee on Democratic Renewal is pleased to present the following recommendations to the Legislative Assembly:
1. That a plebiscite question take the form of a multi-option ballot listing five electoral systems, including the province’s current system, to be ranked by a voter in order of preference. The committee further recommends that voters be free to rank as many, or as few, of the five options as they wish.
2. That the following electoral system options be presented on a plebiscite ballot, in alphabetical order:
Dual Member Proportional Representation
First-past-the-post (the current system)
First-past-the-post Plus Leaders
Mixed Member Proportional Representation
3. That specific parameters be considered for two of the above-listed options:
(a) In the case of First-past-the-post Plus Leaders, that a threshold of 10% in the popular vote be achieved by political parties in order to assign a seat to party leaders.
(b) In the case of Mixed Member Proportional Representation, that open lists of candidates be incorporated into a model of mixed member proportional representation, so that voters have a degree of choice among the candidates presented by way of party lists. The committee also recommends that the fraction of seats comprising the proportional component be approximately one-third of the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly; and, further, that these seats be compensatory or “top up” seats.
4. That Elections PEI be tasked with ensuring that voters throughout the province receive clear and impartial information about a plebiscite voting process, the date of a plebiscite, a plebiscite question, and the content of the choices appearing on a plebiscite ballot.
5. That electronic voting be utilized in a plebiscite to maximize both access and convenience for the electorate, provided that standards for security, accuracy, privacy, integrity, cost-effectiveness, and auditability can be assured.
6. That a plebiscite question be:
Rank the following electoral system options in your order of preference, 1 through 5 (with “1” being your most preferred):
_____ Dual Member Proportional Representation
_____ First-past-the-post (the current system)
_____ First-past-the-post Plus Leaders
_____ Mixed Member Proportional Representation
_____ Preferential Voting
The Special Committee is made up of the following individuals: Chair, Jordan Brown (Charlottetown-Brighton), Peter Bevan-Baker (Leader of the Third Party), Honourable Paula Biggar (Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy), Sidney MacEwen (Morell-Mermaid) and Janice Sherry (Summerside-Wilmot).
The committee looks forward to acting in an advisory capacity with Elections PEI as the process continues. For further information on the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal please refer to the committee’s website atwww.assembly.pe.ca/democraticrenewal.