Democratic Renewal on Prince Edward Island.

Author:Brown, Jordan
 
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Canada's smallest province is well-known for its high voter turnout. This tradition of strong engagement in the democratic process makes it a particularly interesting site for introspection about forms of democratic renewal. In this article, the author, who serves as chair of the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal, provides the context and outlines the history leading to PEI's most recent examination of its electoral system, which culminated in a plebiscite held from October 29 to November 7, 2016.

* This article was written in August 2016.

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The Government of Prince Edward Island recently indicated in its 2015 Speech from The Throne that it was committed to "initiate and support a thorough and comprehensive examination of ways in which to strengthen our electoral system, our representation, and the role and function of the Legislative Assembly." Government also prepared and disseminated the White Paper on Democratic Renewal (the "White Paper"), in the most recent sitting of the Legislature. As the title would imply, the White Paper is a discussion paper surrounding democratic reform on Prince Edward Island, relating, in particular, to our voting method; the number and distribution of seats in our Legislative Assembly; and, opportunities to enhance election laws and representation in the Legislative Assembly.

On July 9, 2015, the Legislative Assembly unanimously resolved that a five person Special Committee of the Legislative Assembly be created to guide public engagement and make recommendations in response to the White Paper on Democratic Renewal. It is my privilege to have been named Chair of that Special Committee. In that capacity, let me provide some context to the task at hand, particularly as it pertains to the manner in which we vote, and to delineate some of the issues and challenges faced by the Committee.

Jordan Brown was elected to the Prince Edward Island Legislature in the May 4, 2015 provincial general election, as the representative for District 13, Charlottetown--Brighton. He serves as chair of the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal, vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and a member of the Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development.

Context

By virtue of a general election culminating on May 4, 2015, when 82.22 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot, 27 Members of Prince Edward Island's Legislative Assembly were elected via a first past the post system, to represent, and govern, the 146,000 constituents that comprise Canada's smallest province.

Liberal MLAs formed a majority government, with 18 seats; the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) were elected in eight ridings; and, for the first time in the Island's history, a Green MLA, party leader, Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker, was elected, and his party given Official Party status. This result was based on a popular vote breakdown of 40.8 per cent for the Liberals, 37.4 per cent for the PCs, 11 per cent for the New Democratic Party (NDP), and 10.8 per cent for the Green Party, respectively. Of 27 MLAs, only five are female and one is Acadian (a historically identifiable culture on P.E.I.)....

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