Statement by Senator Downe on Electoral System Plebiscite

Prince Edward Island

Electoral System Plebiscite

November 1, 2016


The Honourable Senator Percy E. Downe :

Honourable senators, the Prince Edward Island government called a plebiscite to change the electoral system in Prince Edward Island. This 10-day voting period is now under way. All Islanders received a voting pin number to vote online or on the telephone, or the old fashioned way, showing up at a polling station. Also the government is allowing 16- and 17- year-old Islanders to vote because they will be affected by any changes.

Islanders are being asked to rank in order of preference their preferred option of five options. One is first past the post, which we all know about.

The second system is first past the post with the addition of leaders from all political parties that get more than 10 per cent of the vote Island-wide. This will add a different perspective to the assembly and has a small element of proportionality. Islanders would not vote directly for the leaders. The leaders would not run in any district. As a result, the number of seats in the assembly would change depending on how many leaders reach the 10 per cent quota.

The third option is dual member proportional. District voters would mark a single X for the party of their preference. Each party may run a maximum of two candidates per district who appear on the ballot, and order is decided by the party. In every district, the most popular party wins the first seat as in the first past the post system. The second seat for every district is assigned so that the party distribution in the assembly matches the province-wide vote. These seats are assigned proportionally from the number of seats available and are given to the candidate where the party did the best. Under this system, Prince Edward Islanders would most often be represented by two MLAs from two different parties. This system was developed specifically for P.E.I. and is not used anywhere else.

The fourth option is mixed member proportional. It is a proportional system where one local MLA is elected per district and other MLAs are elected from their province. The mixed member proportional ballot will be in two parts. In the first part, using the first past the post system, a voter would mark a single X for the preferred candidate. Two thirds of MLAs would be elected this way and would become a representative for a district. On the second part of the ballot, a voter would mark a single X for the preferred party by voting for a candidate on a party list. One- third of the MLAs would be elected this way. The result of the second part of the ballot determines the percentage of the popular vote for each party.

(1410)

The last option, preferential voting, is a system wherein candidates are ranked and must have more than 50 per cent of the vote to win. In a preferential voting system, voters rank the candidates on the ballot by their preference. The number one is placed next to the first one, second and so on.

As I said, the vote is currently under way, and as of last night 7 per cent of Islanders had voted over the Internet and on the phone. The old traditional polling vote is this weekend, and we will be interested to see what the turnout is.