With the second round of democratic renewal public consultations about to get under way, I thought it might be a good time to talk about the unique opportunity that PEI has to shape national affairs.

Since its birth, Canada has used the “First-Past-The-Post” system to elect governments at the federal and provincial levels. Prime Minister Trudeau has stated that from now on that won’t be the case federally. The next federal election will use something different to elect our House of Commons.

Meanwhile here on Prince Edward Island, the process of reviewing our electoral system was already well under way before the Liberals assumed power in Ottawa. In July of this year, Premier MacLauchlan launched a special committee to consult with Islanders and to bring forward a question (or questions) for a plebiscite on the issue of democratic reform. I have had the pleasure and privilege of serving on this committee. We have heard from Islanders all across PEI, and received hundreds of written submissions on the topic. As a member of the committee, I have put aside my own preferences and listened openly as Islanders expressed their inclinations for our electoral future. While I understand that discussions on democratic reform don’t necessarily get the heart fluttering, I remain convinced that how we elect our representatives has profound implications when it comes to the nature and quality of governance.

So rather than advocate for a particular electoral system, how about we look at what we want to get from an election outcome? Or put another way, how can we craft the electoral system that will optimise governance on Prince Edward Island? I believe there are several features of such a system, and they are.

  1. That it results in a legislature that accurately reflects the voting intentions of Islanders.
  2. That it produce a legislature where the potential for abuse of power is minimized.
  3. That it be a tool to ensure that the diversity of Island society (i.e. gender, cultural, political, economic, ethnic) be represented in the legislature.
  4. That it encourage collegial behaviour amongst elected representatives.
  5. That it be designed to meet our particular needs here on PEI.

Rather than championing one particular option, how about we agree on the outcomes we would prefer, and then go looking for the system that is most likely to produce it?

So I ask the questions:

Do you agree with my criteria? Is there anything missing from the above list?

If we can agree on what we want, then we can have a useful debate about how the various options before us – status quo, preferential ballot, proportional representation, etc. – fit the bill. It may be that whatever we choose here on PEI is scalable for the whole country, or it may not. Either way, the eyes of the nation will be on our deliberations here, and we have a chance to be pioneers in electoral reform, to modernize our system and improve how we elect our representatives, and more importantly, the governance they provide.




  1. Brenda Boudreau 22 January 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Any thoughts on basic qualifications for political representatives?

  2. Bill Kays 23 January 2016 at 8:30 am

    I agree with 1, 2, 4, and 5. I repeat my previous comments regarding gender, cultural, political, economic, and ethnic. Political correctness is a form of censorship, a way to herd people into a liberal culture. It makes no logical sense to make a requirement to ensure equal representation throughout our electoral process as it takes away from democracy by placing arbitrary limits on the wishes of the people. I don’t need or want a government that is in constant agreement with me, but if they could make decisions that agree with me occasionally, that would be nice. It seems that all legislation encumbers freedom these days rather than promoting it.

  3. greg bradley 23 January 2016 at 9:46 am

    I agree with all points, and would like to add, all political funding, and dontions of any size should be open for public viewing. We need more clearity of campaign gifts, and funding.

  4. Roy Johnstone 23 January 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Peter, As you well know, one of the serious shortcomings with the present electoral system , often called first past the post (FPTP) is the lack of effective opposition that we have seen in several recent elections. Where a party with little more than a majority gains nearly all of the seats leaving only one or two members in opposition. One or two members cannot form an effective opposition to review and scrutinize the government. I see that your first point addresses this issue but I really think Islanders need to recognize the problem fist and foremost and then move forward with the solutions so I would add the need for an effective opposition to you list of critical points to consider.

  5. islandbikers 23 January 2016 at 12:20 pm

    I wonder – how do your list of outcomes feel to those who “know” they presently benefit from traditional politics? If one feels that they are in a position to benefit (in any way) from “traditional” politics, wouldn’t it feel counter to one’s self-interest to seek change?

    I appreciate that by focusing on the “outcomes” you’re trying to find common ground. However, if “what we want” is believed to be what we already have, to many who matter your outcomes may look more like foreign territory than common ground. To this end, it may be necessary not only to be clear about the outcomes we may enjoy as a result of change, but also as clear as possible about the outcomes we already have as a result of our present system. After all, doesn’t everything turn on the difference between the outcomes?

    I wouldn’t want to be too provocative, but if we don’t want to know we’re in jail, what’s the chance we’ll want to seek freedom?

  6. Wendy Jones 24 January 2016 at 7:17 pm

    I’d like to see private electoral funding abolished and each candidate who receives a minimum number of signatories to their candidacy given an equal sum from which to mount a campaign. The amount of money you have should not determine how far you go in an election.

  7. Michael Ufford 22 January 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for this opportunity. Here are the features I think are important:

    That it is easy enough to understand how voting and vote counting works.

    That it results in a legislature that has a clear mandate to govern and is accountable to the voters next election.

    That it allows governments to be formed right after the election, not after months of private negotiation.

    That it not encourage fragmentation of politics into narrow special interest parties, right or left.

    See our critique of party proportional voting at the non-partisan Facebook Group: FPTP … It Works for Canada.


  8. W. Wilkins 22 January 2018 at 10:15 pm

    I may just be fooling around here, I’m not sure.

    I think I understand what “first past” means, but what does “the post” represent? Of course I realize it’s a metaphor that draws on horse racing or, I suppose, any event that requires a post to rank and sort who goes by it first and thereafter. But really, with respect to a democracy where each person matters, what does “the post” actually signify?

    Just to put it out there, perhaps as we debate our electoral system, we should determine what this “post” thing really is . . . and if we really need it.


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