Question By Members, 15 November 2016
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI

Plebiscite threshold

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker.

A question for our Premier. Prior to this month’s plebiscite on electoral reform we have had eight previous provincial plebiscites on Prince Edward Island. Can the Premier inform this House how many of those plebiscites resulted in the government of the day following the wishes of Islanders as expressed in those plebiscites?

Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Premier MacLauchlan: I wouldn’t have known the answer to that question if I hadn’t read this morning’s Guardian newspaper in which the Leader of the Third Party says that all of those plebiscites resulted in the government acting, or not, according to the results of the plebiscite.

I think you could go back then through those various events and exercise some discernment as to the level of participation and the way in which the government took the indication of the will of the people from the plebiscite. I’m sure that’s what will happen with the plebiscite that was recently conducted in this province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your first supplementary.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is a correct answer. Thank you Mr. Premier.

Some of those plebiscites had higher voter turnout than the one we’ve just done, some less. Some of those plebiscites had a larger margin of victory than the one we just carried out, some less.

Can the Premier tell this House, by convention, what is the threshold required to enact legislation based on Islanders’ wishes as expressed in a plebiscite?

Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Premier MacLauchlan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can tell the House and the Leader of the Third Party what was said in the second report of the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal on this point where the committee pointed out that the 2005 plebiscite on the proportional representation had a 33% participation and the plebiscite on the fixed link had in the order of between 64% and 65% participation.

The committee in its wisdom, and I respect that, said that this is something that should be weighed, taking account of both the level of turnout and the margin of support that is voiced for the question posed. It was clear – certainly to be read between the lines and in an associated comment – in the report of the committee that the committee did not feel that the turnout in the 2005 plebiscite was – let me say, it was something that they wished to see happen again.

I also note that the Leader of the Third Party himself suggested that a 50% turnout would be an adequate basis or a desirable basis on which to act on a plebiscite.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your second supplementary question.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the Premier for the opportunity to clear the reference he made up right now. Not that you made it up, but I want to clear it up right now.

The figure referenced by our Premier is not a limit that I, myself, was proposing. It was my guess at what the Premier might be looking for.

Now, I’m very flattered that the government –

An Hon. Member: Question.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: – when developing its position would take into account what the Leader of the Third Party is guessing what the Premier is thinking, but to me it hardly seems relevant, and I hope that this government in defense of their position of not honouring the vote will hang its evidence on something a little more substantial than that flimsy twig.

The answer to my previous question – by convention what threshold is required – is that there is none. There is none. In fact, none of our plebiscites previously have ever had the clear majority that our Premier has talked about so often in the last few weeks.

When is the Premier going to honour the vote in this month’s plebiscite fostering, as he answered earlier in this Question Period, the culture of good governance and bring in legislation to conduct our next provincial election under a mixed-member proportional system?

Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Premier MacLauchlan: Mr. Speaker, the vote will be honoured by a debate in this Legislative Assembly and I look forward to it, and I will be speaking through a minister’s statement to that very question shortly after Question Period.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


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