I would encourage all Islanders to read a recent article on CBC’s website titled, “Premier ‘Weaseling’ on Plebiscite Results, Complains Political Observer.” It provides a well-reasoned synopsis of the current circumstances surrounding the recent plebiscite on proportional representation. It offers commonsense insights from Richard Raiswel in favour of implementing the winning option in the plebiscite: Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). I fully agree that MMP deserves a chance to prove itself as a superior system of democratic representation for PEI. If significant problems arise with MMP, well the legislature can always decide to put a question on the ballot in the next election (as a binding referendum) thereby giving Islanders the choice to either make MMP permanent or return to the system now in place. Not implementing MMP would be a serious political mistake for PEI.
For the Premier to ignore the results of the plebiscite on grounds that “too few people voted” would be a failure on his part to recognize that 100% of eligible Islanders did, in fact, exercise their democratic right to vote, or not vote, in the plebiscite. The majority of Islanders chose to abstain from voting, and by so choosing, effectively told us that they didn’t want a say in the outcome: government must respect those democratic choices.
For Islanders who exercised their democratic right to vote by actually voting, 52.4% voted in favour of MMP. That’s a majority. If the Premier refuses to regard that majority to be a sufficient show of support to proceed with the MMP option, then, in my opinion, such a decision betrays the fact that the Premier’s personal and “preferred” option (First-Past-The-Post) is more important to him than the will of the majority of Islanders who voted in the plebiscite. Such a manoeuvre will most certainly increase the already-high degree of political cynicism existing among Islanders regarding exactly who the elected members of the Legislative Assembly represent and serve (e.g., their constituents….or themselves). Let’s not forget that support for MMP was widespread across the Island, with 22 out of 27 districts on the Island voting for MMP.
A decision to keep the status quo will further weaken an already flawed political system: a regime that too often lacks transparency and accountability; usually offers only the pretense of “consultation” (often occurring after government plans have already been set in motion); and frequently produces government decisions and actions showing what can only be called “contempt” for the very ethical and legal principles and processes put in place to prevent the abuse of political power.
The Premier must surely realize that the majority of Islanders believe our present political system is flawed – as the Premier himself seemed to suggest prior to getting elected last year. Indeed, that was the impetus for the decision to hold a plebiscite on proportional representation in the first place. No, it wouldn’t be a mistake to give MMP a legitimate try…the real political danger for the Premier – and for the two mainline political parties who clearly stand to benefit most from keeping the current system – would be to reject the legitimate, democratic outcome of the plebiscite while attempting to justify the view that sticking with the status quo is preferable to trying the MMP system. Islanders will not be fooled this time around. Mr. Premier, respect the democratic will of Islanders and demonstrate some personal integrity and noble leadership by implementing MMP.