Coalition for PR member Marie Burge submitted this op-ed to the Charlottetown Guardian recently. Thanks, Marie!
ELECTORAL REFORM: AN ACCURATE VIEW OF HISTORY
From October 29 to November 7, 2016, Islanders will vote in a plebiscite. The results of the plebiscite will suggest how future PEI governments should be elected. It is a welcome sign that the government is paying for education for us to be well-informed voters. This task was given to Elections PEI. The education seems to be going well.
However, good community education requires an accurate view of PEI history. One important moment in our history was the 2005 plebiscite. It was upsetting to hear the Elections PEI communications director say, “The last time there was a plebiscite (in 2005) there was no real public education…” This comment diminishes the competence and work of a lot of people.
First of all is Premier Pat Binns who had the courage to initiate an electoral reform process in 2003 by mandating retired Chief Justice Norman Carruthers as the one-person commission. In one year Justice Carruthers did a massive research, drawing on knowledge of experts, local, national and international (114 submissions and interviews). He studied experiences of other jurisdictions and concluded that P.E.I. would benefit from a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system. Premier Binns accepted this recommendation. In December 2004 the government named an eight-person commission to develop and conduct a public education program on First Past the Post and Mixed Member Proportional electoral systems and to design a plebiscite question. That was the Commission on Prince Edward Island’s Electoral Future, with Leonard Russell, a well-known educator, as chair. This commission implemented an extensive public education program. Its report was accepted by the PEI legislature.
To assess the statement, “(in 2005) there was no real public education”, here are some facts about 2005. The government provided its commission with a significant budget, $148,200. The Commission had regular media releases in all Island publications in French and English. There were kick-off media conferences in May 2005. In June, there was a symposium with national and local experts. A communication firm was hired in July. A television commercial was created and broadcast. An information pamphlet was delivered to most Island households and at events in many communities. The Commission created a website and had a 1-800 line. Twelve public meetings were held and the audio recordings of them were added to the website. There were print and radio messages.
The above refers only to the publicly-funded education program. As well, in 2005, a parallel, non-governmental group was active. The YES on MMP coalition of diverse community groups and individuals formed in early October and carried out the YES Campaign. This coalition raised $35,000 private dollars and hired a co-ordinator, designed “Vote YES” signs and buttons, and 3,000 clear language mail-outs. The coalition did some door-to-door campaigning and organized a number of forums/debates, featuring the Yes and No sides.
The misrepresentation of education efforts in 2005 is important because it tends to cover-up the fact that the PC government changed its tune, came to favour a “No” vote, and undermined the plebiscite process at the eleventh hour by requiring a 60 per cent vote and by having few voting stations opened. They and the Liberal party used backroom tactics to warn voters of “the dangers of MMP,” and that it was too difficult for us to understand.
Now because it’s 2016, we expect government and opposition to take the high road. No more 2005 shenanigans. It seems clear that many Islanders are ready and able for change. We can all help by making sure that all eligible Islanders know the issues and that they vote intelligently in the plebiscite.
– Marie Burge of Mermaid was a member of the YES ON MMP coalition in 2005 and is an active member of the 2016 PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation.
Recently, Elections PEI launched a website and education campaign to let people know more about their options for electoral reform in the upcoming provincial plebiscite. Their website, http://www.yourchoicepei.ca, provides information about each of five electoral options and asks Islanders, “Is it time for a change?”
The PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation answers that question with a big YES. We think it is time for a change, and that the best change would be proportional representation.
Proportional Representation (PR) is an electoral system where every vote counts because the distribution of seats in the Legislature matches the popular vote. If 40% of Islanders vote for the Dog Party, the Dog Party receives 40% of the seats. PR eliminates the unfair advantage the current system (First-Past-the-Post) gives to winners and the unfair disadvantage it gives to all others. This unfair advantage is what confers majority governments and 100% of the power on parties that earn less than the majority of votes.
The current voting is rigged in favour of the parties that have always governed. Both the Liberals and the PCs have benefitted from disproportionate rewards and suffered disproportionate defeats in the past. The flip-flops from one extreme to the other that we have seen in the past are very unstable.
Part of the problem is that the current system renders a large proportion of voters’ votes ineffective – that is, their votes don’t elect anyone. Only votes for the winner in each district count in making up the legislature. Under proportional representation systems, every vote counts. Every vote is effective. Every vote helps decide the composition of the legislature that is meant to represent the will of the voters.
On the plebiscite ballot, there will be five choices for voters to rank from their most preferred to their least preferred. (One of the five choices is the current first-past-the-post system.) There will two proportional representation options on the ballot. We are urging people to “Vote 1 & 2 for PR”! That means we want voters to look for the word “PROPORTIONAL” on their ballot and make the proportional representation options their #1 and #2 choices.
The two proportional options voters will find on the ballot are called Dual-Member Proportional (DMP) and Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP). Both are proportional systems, which means the distribution of seats matches the distribution of the popular vote. MMP is a mixed system, used in countries such as Scotland, Germany, and New Zealand. You get two votes to elect a local candidate and a province-wide party. DMP is a new system, not used elsewhere. You vote once and get two local representatives. Find out more at our website, peipr.ca.
The plebiscite on democratic renewal is our chance as Islanders to give direct advice to government from the people (the voters) about how we vote in provincial elections and how to make that vote count.
No matter who you vote for, an electoral system based on proportional representation benefits everyone by delivering fair results: it’s fair and square — the party with the most votes gets the most seats.
Submitted by Florence Larkin, member of the Coalition for Proportional Representation
Published in The Charlottetown Guardian today: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/2016-08-05/article-4607517/Vote-for-options-1-and-2-for-PR/1
The Coalition is reorganizing to make good use of our time and energy in the remaining weeks before the Plebiscite. Marie Burge from the Cooper Institute wrote this update for Coalition members on July 31, 2016.
Things you might like to know:
Dates of Plebiscite:
Friday, October 29, 2016 at noon to Monday, November 7 at 7:00 pm
- Methods of Voting:
– On-line and telephone voting every day
– In-person voting on Friday, November 4, 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm and Saturday, November 5, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
- Where to vote:
– From your computer or phone
– In-person voting can be at any poll across the Island (one poll in each Electoral District, at a designated school)
- What to vote for:
The Coalition is campaigning for people to vote for the Proportional Representation (PR) options
– Dual Member Proportional Representation-DMP and
– Mixed Member Proportional Representation-MMP)
The Coalition is not favouring one over the other, but is promoting BOTH models of PR.
- How to vote for PR:
The Coalition is encouraging voters to rank the two proportional systems on the ballot as #1 & #2. And then mark the other three as #3, #4, & #5. Given the method of calculating the plebiscite results, if enough people do that (regardless of which one is marked as 1 or which is marked as 2), there will be a higher possibility of ending up with proportional representation.
- Campaign in place:
– to get a high percentage (at least 60%) of people to vote
– to convince the majority of them to vote 1 & 2 for PR.
- What we need:
– many, many people across the Island getting a buzz for PR going in their families, organizations, communities, electoral districts
– volunteers in every district to deliver PR information door-to door
– lots of media
– funds to cover campaign expenses
Elections PEI has posted new videos about the upcoming plebiscite! Here are three of them:
General information about the vote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHlDdIKcpF8&feature=youtu.be
About DMP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdN7Jb1wCBY
About MMP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fskEeYj4kWo
We’ve added a FAQ to our website! https://peipr.ca/faq/
If you have questions that aren’t answered here, post them in the comments, and we’ll do our best to answer them and add them to the FAQ page.
It’s official! Prince Edward Island’s plebiscite on changing our electoral system will take place this fall, with a mix of online, telephone, and in-person voting over the period from October 29 to November 7, 2016! This is our chance to participate in one vote this fall to make all our future votes more meaningful – to get a Legislature where the seats are proportional to the popular vote. Make your choice voting 1 & 2 for Proportional Representation!
To review Elections PEI’s resources, visit their website, www.yourchoicepei.ca, or meet their public education team in person. Coalition for PR members from the PEI Coalition for Women in Government and the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women dropped downtown in Charlottetown the Confederation Court Mall today to meet Taya and Justin and to pick up resources.
Is it time for a change, Elections PEI asks? We sure think so. It’s time for elections that put the voters’ interests before the status quo.