Got a question that isn't answered below? Email info@PRonPEI.vote now and we'll get back to you.

See also our FAQ about the voting process itself.

What are the 5 options on the ballot?

Check out the 'No Malarkey Guide to the PEI Plebiscite'

What is 'proportional representation'? Why should we support it?

Proportional Representation means that if a party has the support of 20% of the population, they will get 20% of the seats in the legislature. 40% of the votes = 40% of the seats, and so on.

It's fair, and it encourages a culture of cooperation and collaboration in government.

Proportional Representation is already used to elect governments in over 90 countries, including Scotland, Wales, New Zealand and Germany. If it's good enough for them, why can't we use it on P.E.I., and in Canada, too?

 

FairVoteCanada has a great page reviewing the evidence in favour of Proportional Representation: www.fairvote.ca/evidence/

Researcher Arend Lijphart, a world­renowned political scientist, spent his career studying various features of democratic life in majoritarian and Proportional Representation democracies. In his landmark study 'Patters of Democracy, he compared 36 democracies over 55 years. Looking at a number of specific indicators, Lijphart found that in countries using proportional systems,

  • Voter turnout was higher by 7.5 percentage points, when contextual factors are taken into account.
  • Government policies were closer to the view of the median voter.
  • Citizens were more satisfied with the performance of their countries’ democratic institutions, even when the party they voted for was not in power.
  • There was a small increase in the number of parties in Parliament.
  • The share of women elected to legislators was 8 percentage points higher.
  • Scores were higher on measures of political participation and civil liberties

 

 

Regardless of which party you personally support, Proportional Representation is good for you, the voter. Your vote counts equally, every single time. Oppositions are always relevant and are part of negotiation, rather than simply "complaining" in the media, but totally shut out of government decision-making until it is 'their turn' at the wheel.

Proportional Representation helps to make government friendlier and more collaborative. With Proportional Representation, the government will truly reflect, at every election, the democratic will of island voters.

Check out Brenda Oslawsky's excellent presentation on the Benefits of PR:

https://peipr.ca/2016/05/20/benefits-of-pr/

What's wrong with the current voting system? Why change?

The current electoral system could be improved. Here are some of the weaknesses of first-past-the-post.
Do any of these make sense to you?

  • Ineffective oppositions - an opposition of just 1 person (PEI after the 2000 election) or 4 people (PEI in 2003 and 2007) isn't strong enough to truly 'hold the government to account'. Sure, opposition parties can 'oppose' and 'complain' about the government in the media, but when it comes to a vote, this doesn't have any impact on government decision-making. Proportional representation will ensure strong oppositions, which leads to more government transparency, and learning to find acceptable compromises through negotiation, when important decisions are made.

  • A flip-flop from one 'ruling party' in government, to its opposite, every 10 years or so. Under Proportional Representation, we would see 'course corrections' rather than wild swings from one party to another, leading to more consistent sharing of power.

Graphs of the last 6 elections on PEI, vs the popular vote

  • A culture of competition, rather than collaboration and negotiation.
  • More than 50% of votes are 'wasted' - they don't contribute to electing someone. This means that the resulting government would have been exactly the same if half the voters simply stayed at home, and didn't show up! Islanders tend to be very politically engaged, but it's understandable that many people feel like their vote hasn't really made a difference after election day is over.
  • Many voters feel a pressure to 'vote strategically' - instead of voting for the party that best represents their values, voters feel like they have to vote for someone else, to prevent their worst nightmare from being elected.
  • Unfair majorities - majority governments can form too easily, even if they only have the support of a minority of the population. With a majority, a party has 100% of the power - they can push through decisions that they want, for the 4 years that they are in government, without needing to consult with anyone else. There is no need for governments to be open and transparent. In Proportional Representation, majority governments can still be formed, but only if they have a true majority of support from the population.
  • "First-past-the-post" could also be called "winner takes all": it's like a horse-race, but there is no second or third place... the winning party gets all the power, for the next four years.

Convinced? Learn how you can vote for Proportional Representation here.

What are the differences between Dual Member Proportional (DMP) and Mixed Member Proportional (MMP)?

If you want lots of detail, we recommend checking out the great videos and other resources found at https://peipr.ca/dmp-mmp/.

You can also see the overview, videos and detailed explanations on Election PEI's website: www.yourchoicepei.ca (in the 'Options' and 'FAQ' sections.)

If you want just the top-level explanation of the differences, here's a summary table! 

Mixed Member Proportional Representation

Dual Member Proportional Representation

18 local districts, each with 1 MLA, plus 9 province-wide seats. (Total of 27)

13 or 14 local districts, each with 2 MLAs. (Total of 26 or 28)

Parties nominate one candidate per district, as well as an 'open' list of candidates for voters to choose from, for the 9 province-wide seats.

Lists are recognized as a tool that can help a party to nominate more diverse candidates.

Independent candidates (not part of any political party) can run in local districts, and not for the province-wide seats.

Parties nominate one candidate, or two candidates (primary & secondary) per district.

Independent candidates can run in all districts.

Voting:

You have two votes:

  • 1 vote for a candidate in your local district, just like the current system

  • 1 vote for a candidate from your preferred party, for the province-wide seats. This vote counts for both the candidate and the party.

 

Voting:

You mark a single X, just like you do now, for a candidate in your local district. 

Your vote counts for both the candidate and their party.

The most popular candidate in a local district will always be elected to that district's seat.

The 9 'top up' provincial seats are awarded to the most popular candidates from list of the parties who are under-represented at the district level, to ensure an overall proportional balance in the legislature.

If a party deserves 3 top-up seats, they will be awarded to that party's 3 most popular candidates.

Parties do not get to control which people sit in the legislature: that decision is made entirely by the voters.

The most popular candidate in a local district is always elected, to the first of a district's two seats. The second seats per district are then awarded, to give a proportional balance in the legislature.

The system then aims to award each party's deserved second seats in the districts where they had their most popular remaining candidates, based on the percentage of votes received in each district.

Independents who place second in any district will always be elected to that district's second seat.

Parties do not get to control which people sit in the legislature: that decision is made entirely by the voters.

You could take your concerns to your local MLA, or to any of the 9 province-wide MLAs.

You can take your concerns to either of your two local MLAs, who would likely be from different parties.

Commonly used around the world, eg in Scotland, Wales, New Zealand and Germany.

This is a new system, designed in Canada.

 

If you want a Proportional Representation system, vote for these two options as your 1st and 2nd choices, in whatever order you choose. It's up to you to choose which option deserves your number '1'.

If you can't make up your mind, don't let it stop you from voting - toss a coin if you have to!

Your vote will have the most impact if you number BOTH Proportional Representation options as your top TWO choices.

What about the other options on the ballot - "Preferential Voting" and First Past the Post "plus Leaders"?

In the lead-up to the electoral reform vote, you might hear some people advocate for the other, non-Proportional options on the ballot as 'a step towards proportionality, without being too radical and throwing the baby out with the bathwater!'.

Don't be fooled! Here's the lowdown...

If you like either of these options, we'd recommend placing it as your number '3' preference, after the two proportional options.

Preferential Voting:

Australia has used the Preferential Ballot (a.k.a. 'Instant Runoff' or 'The Alternative Vote' in the lower house for many decades.

It certainly helps voters to feel better when they place their votes, because no-one needs to 'vote strategically': every voter can place their true preferences in order, without having to worry about vote-splitting between similar parties resulting in a party with an opposing ideology being elected.

Unfortunately, Preferential Voting means that not every voter is treated equally: some voters have their 1st-preference votes respected, and some voters have their 1st preferences entirely ignored: only their 2nd-preference (or lower!) votes actually contribute towards electing a representative.

In addition, the results are nearly exactly the same as the current First Past the Post system - it results in disproportionate and false majorities, and extreme, costly swings from left to right every few elections. Preferential Voting is still a 'winner take all' system: some citizens are lucky enough to be 'winners', and some are 'losers', in every election.

With Proportional Representation, every 1st-preference vote counts, every time, and every citizen wins their fair share of political representation.

 

 

First Past the Post 'plus Leaders'

At first, this sounds like an improvement on the current system - especially thinking back to the 2015 election when two of the four party leaders didn't have enough popularity to be elected in their local districts. Many islanders recognize the value in having party leaders from a diverse set of parties - including 3rd and 4th parties - represented in the legislature.

However, the devil is in the detail: party leaders would not run in a local district, and nor would there be a separate vote by all islanders, directly for the leaders. But the leaders of any party gaining over 10% of the vote would still automatically sit in the legislature, without ever having to face a citizen-voter directly. The only voters a leader would ever face are those within their own party's leadership nomination process.

In addition, if a party were to change leaders in between elections, then person who sits in the legislature would also automatically change, without citizens outside the party ever having a say, and without a byelection being held.

In this system, political parties have more power than they have currently - they could simply appoint a leader and know with near-certainty that the leader would sit in the legislative assembly. Because of this, many advocates regard this as actually anti-democratic.

It would add between 2 and 4 extra MLAs to the legislature.

Finally, this option does nothing to change the instability of the extreme swings from left to right that result from First Past the Post systems. As an example, in the year 2000, under the 'plus Leaders' system, instead of having 26 PCs and 1 Liberal, there would have been 27 PCs and 2 Liberals: the results are still wildly disproportional.

Check out the official Elections PEI Frequently Asked Questions about First Past the Post 'plus Leaders'.

 

 

In Proportional systems, do the parties decide which people hold office?

NoL not in either of Dual-Member Proportional or Mixed Member Proportional with an "open list", which are the two proportional options on the ballot in PEI in 2016.

This is a common myth that opponents of Proportional Representation have been spreading around, to generate fear of change. :(

Under both proportional options being considered here, a party puts forward a set of candidates in every district, just like they do now, and voters place their votes next to an individual candidate's name.

The most popular candidates will be chosen for each of the local districts (in both systems, just like the current system), and in addition, for the 'proportional' part of the seats, each party's most popular representatives - as decided by the voters - will be chosen to fill the seats in the legislature that party has earned.

In PEI's 2005 plebiscite a "closed list" proportional model was used, which has some degree of party control. That is not the case in 2016. The influence of parties is limited only to the candidate nominations: voters choose which candidates win the seats.

But Proportional Representation means minority governments, instability, lots of elections... right?

In proportional representation, single-party majority governments can still form - as long as an actual majority of the voters truly supports them.

A more common outcome, however, is majority coalition governments - made up of a combination of different parties, none of whom have earned a majority in their own right. In these systems, parties to *learn* to get along and negotiate with each other to make progress.


Here is a list of countries that currently operate with coalition governments: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_with_coalition_governments

With at least 2 parties needing to agree on every bill, there’s less chance of any single party is pushing its own agenda or acting unfairly, because there is a built-in check-and-balance. Under First Past the Post, a party can put policies in place without the support of a majority of the population. Then, when the government changes to the other colour in a few elections time, their first year in government is often spent undoing the worst policies that the previous government put in place.

Countries with Proportional Representation actually tend to have more stable long-term policies than those with First Past the Post, and legislation is better-considered before being passed.

No one likes unstable governments, and under the First-Past-The-Post system, minority governments are indeed unstable, because minority governments will readily dissolve and call a fresh election, knowing that they have a good chance of winning a 'false majority'.

One of the great things that we see in countries with proportional representation is that there is actually more stability, and less frequent elections, because minority governments won't voluntarily dissolve - they know that there's very little chance of them winning an unfair majority!
Here is a great opinion piece from island publisher Paul MacNeill, addressing the 'suspect definition of stability' that seems to be held by many defenders of the current, First-Past-the-Post system: http://www.peicanada.com/eastern_graphic/article_0f5408b0-a065-11e6-a21d-3be2ed981b44.html

Does this mean more MLAs, and more costly government?

No, it doesn't.

With either Proportional option, we'd have a very similar number of representatives as what we have now.

Currently we have 27 MLAs. With Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) the Island would have 18 district MLAs and 9 province-wide MLAs, totalling 27. With Dual-Member Proportional (DMP) we'd have 13 or 14 districts with 2 representatives for each district - for 26 or 28 MLAs in total.
Since the number of representative would likely not change drastically, the overall cost to pay representatives would not be substantially different.
To put things in perspective: the budget for PEI's Legislature is only about 0.5% of the province's annual budget for things like healthcare, education and infrastructure. The provincial legislature controls spending for approximately $1.7 BILLION of our taxes. With proportional representation, we have more transparency and better oversight over how that money is spent. That's where the real savings happen!

What about independent candidates? I vote for the person not the party!

In both Proportional Representation options on the ballot, just like now, independent candidates can run in every district and have a chance of being elected. There are some differences, though:

  • In the 14 districts of Dual-Member Proportional, independents could be elected as the 'first' representative of a district if they are the most popular candidate, or they could be a district's second representative if they are the second-most-popular candidate. This option could actually increase the chances of independent candidates being elected, over the current system, if they are popular enough in their district.

  • In the 18 districts of Mixed-Member Proportional, an independent could be elected if they are the most popular local candidate in order to win a seat. Independents would not be able to run on the 2nd part of the ballot, for the province-wide 'list' seats. More detailed info on this system can be found on the Elections PEI website: http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/mixed-member-proportional-1

What happens in a by-election?

If there was a resignation of an MLA in any local district seat in a proportional system, the byelection would still take place under first-past-the-post - perhaps with a Preferential Ballot. Mathematically, it's impossible to be 'proportional' when there's only ONE seat available!

The details of the two different models are interesting to look at:
  • Under Dual-Member Proportional, all seats are 'local', so a regular by-election would take place under First-Past-the-Post rules.

  • Under Mixed-Member Proportional, 18 of the 27 seats are 'local districts', so they would have a regular by-election if there were a vacancy. However, if an MLA who held one of the 9 province-wide seats resigned, then there would be no by-election, and no cost of transition. Instead, the candidate who was that party's 'next most popular' candidate, as determined by the voters in the previous election, would be offered the seat. If there were no other candidates, then a province-wide by-election would be called for that seat. However, the chances of this happening are very low.

In proportional systems, by-elections are likely to be less frequent, because there is more likely to be an incentive for all elected politicians to serve their full term, knowing that by resigning they could affect the balance of power in the legislature.

Does this let unpopular parties win seats?

Nope - both proportional systems have a minimum threshold, for the popular support that they must receive if they are to win a seat. It is impossible for a party to win a seat with only 2 or 3% support across the island.

 

 

Under Dual-Member Proportional, would each district be represented by their 1st-and-2nd-most-popular candidates?

In the vast majority of districts, yes, the 1st and 2nd most-locally-popular candidates would be elected.

In other districts, the 1st most popular candidate would be elected, and the 3rd or 4th-most-popular candidate. This would likely happen only in those districts where there was little difference in percentage support between the 2nd, 3rd and 4th candidates, and is an effect of the mathematical algorithm that is used to determine proportionality.

It is worth noting that in either scenario, more voters overall are satisfied than under the current system, in which only the 1st-placed candidate is elected, in a 'winner take all' scenario. Under this current system, all the voters for other parties are unrepresented.

How does a government form in proportional representation? How is the speaker selected if there is a tie?

In countries that have proportional representation, the most common form of government is a majority coalition government: an alliance of different parties, none of which could hold a majority on their own, agreeing to cooperate to form a stable government with a clear majority of the seats. The cabinet is then formed to include representatives from all coalition parties, which encourages transparency, openness and true debate.

Under the current system, single-party majority governments form easily - whether a party has earned a clear majority of votes or not. The cabinet then consists of the representatives of just one party, meaning powerholders make decisions behind closed doors, with no need to be transparent.

In Proportional Representation, usually, the party who has won the most seats in the legislature (or, the most votes in the event of a tie in the number of seats) will lead the formation of a coalition.

The speaker of the house is chosen by a vote of all MLAs. Any MLA, from any party, can put their name forward for the position.

In a coalition government, or in the event of a tie between the two largest parties, it is common for the speaker of the house - who does not vote except to break a tie - to be chosen from a the opposition or minor-party benches. This gives a one-vote advantage to the governing party or coalition. This has happened three times in Canadian federal parliament.

Who is behind this campaign?

This campaign is brought to you by the PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation: a network of community-based organizations and individuals convinced of the value of proportional representation as a creator of more democratic governments.

Member organizations of the Coalition include: The PEI Council of People with Disabilities, the Coalition for Women in Government, CUPE PEI, the Cooper Institute, the PEI Federation of Labour, the Green Party of PEI, the PEI NDP, the Council of Canadians, the Citzen's alliance, the PR Action Team, FairVote PEI, and the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

This campaign website was created by the PR Action Team, a member of the Coalition, as their contribution to the shared campaign.

If you want to know more, contact Campaign Director Anna Keenan. She and her young family are based in New Glasgow. anna.c.keenan@gmail.com or (902) 978 1178

You can join the campaign today by signing the pledge or becoming a volunteer!

Where can I find more detailed information?

If you really want to take the time learn more about the details of the various systems being considered in the plebiscite, and how voting will work in the plebiscite itself, then check out these links: