During an interview on September 19, 2006, Premier designate
Shawn Graham expressed his non-commitment to ousted Premier Bernard Lord’s
earlier promise to call for a referendum on mixed proportional voting. The
hesitancy expressed by the new Liberal majority against voting reforms in New
Brunswick stems from the fact that the party won its majority without winning
the popular vote. In the September 18 elections, the Liberal Party took 29 of
the 55 ridings, whereas the Progressive Conservatives only picked up 26, but
the Progressive Conservatives won a higher percentage of the popular vote, 47.5
%, compared to only 47.1 % won by the Liberals.
On March 31, 2005, the New Brunswick Commission on Legislative Democracy issued its Final Report and Recommendations, which examined voting reforms that would create a more citizen-centered democracy in the province. The Commission outlined over 90 recommendations, including a mixed member representative system in which some members would be elected through winner-take-all single-member district elections and others elected proportionally in regional elections, new districting laws that would establish decennial districting and create a new independent elections commission, and comprehensive efforts to increase voter turnout and youth participation. In response to the Commission’s findings, outgoing Premier Bernard Lord promised to hold a referendum on the issue within two years but due to the recent elections never had a chance to fulfill his promise.
In response to the recent electoral results, Fair Vote Canada has called on the new Liberal majority to hold the planned referendum on voting. “What we have is another classic illustration of how voters say one thing with their ballots but the [current] system ends up giving them something different,” said Larry Gordon, executive director of Fair Vote Canada. But Premier Graham, who was sworn in on October 3, 2006, expressed reluctance to follow through with the referendum. “The political pundits can focus on the outcome of the last election,” Graham responded to questions concerning the election results during an interview on September 19. “I'm focused on the future of the province.” It appears that, for now anyway, the enemies of democracy-oriented voting reform have won out in New Brunswick at the expense of the will of the people.