Confederation's cradle calls a vote
Referendum on how to elect MLAs
ATLANTIC CANADA BUREAU
HALIFAX—Prince Edward Island is flirting with a radical election reform that may pioneer fundamental changes to democracy across Canada.
Voters in a province considered the birthplace of Confederation will decide next month whether to endorse a new kind of voting system designed to end lopsided majority governments.
The coming plebiscite on proportional representation has stirred deep emotion and debate in the tiny, perfect province where not just politics but jobs often ride on election results.
Some have accused Premier Pat Binns of trying to scuttle the reform, while others have lauded him for putting P.E.I. in the path of history. Binns, however, says he isn't trying to do either.
"To me, this has never been about trying to make history," he said in a phone interview. "It's about making a system as fair as possible."
The current system, in which the candidate with the greatest number of votes in each district wins his or her seat, has created huge majorities that do not reflect the popular vote.
In the island's last general election, only 54 per cent of the populace voted for the Progressive Conservative party, yet the party took 85 per cent of the Legislative Assembly's 27 seats. In the 2000 election, the Liberal party won 35 per cent of the popular vote, but took only one seat in the assembly.
Binns benefited from both those windfalls, but now believes it is a problem that could erode faith in the system.
"The outcome was very lopsided in the last three elections in terms of the number of members elected," he said.
"That gave rise to the feeling that there must be something better here that we can do."