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December 18, 2003

Electoral reform report released

Charlottetown    A new report on electoral reform recommends Islanders be given the chance to vote on changing to a system of proportional representation.

Premier Pat Binns released the report from retired justice Norman Carruthers on Thursday morning. Binns asked for pubic hearings and a report after more than a decade of unbalanced government in the province.

The report does not offer a single choice on how best to change the system. However it does discuss what systems Island residents would likely look at.

The Carruthers report says Islanders are most likely to accept a mixed member proportional system. It would work much like the one currently used in New Zealand.

It would give Islanders two votes. One would be cast for the district MLA using the traditional first past the post system.

The second vote would offer a list of candidates representing various political parties.

Carruthers says another system worth considering is a single transferable vote system. That system would see voters ranking candidates from a list.

Winners of seats in the legislature would be determined using a mathematical formula.

The former justice says the first thing the government should do is find out if Islanders want change. Carruthers reports that more education on proportional representation is needed, followed by a referendum or plebescite.

The report also touches on when elections should be called. It recommends either fixed election dates in the province, or a narrow window in which the government sends people to the polls.

Carruthers also says there should be a three month window between provincial and municipal elections.

P.E.I. has fixed election dates for municipal governments. This year one fell just weeks after the other.

The report also makes mention of the chief electoral officer's inability to postpone elections. A tropical storm battered P.E.I. on Sept. 29 this year, the same day as the provincial election.

Island law states there is no way the date of a vote can be changed.

Premier Pat Binns is sending the Carruthers report to the legislative standing committee on social development.

It will hold hearings on the findings and report to the assembly early in 2004.

Binns said Thursday he would like to see residents have a chance to vote on changing the electoral system before the next provincial election.


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