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CBC News

January 19, 2005

New Brunswick Commission Recommends Proportional Representation

FREDERICTON - New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord says he'll review a newly released report on electoral reform before deciding on any changes to the system.

The Commission on Legislative Democracy recommends a mixed system of proportional representation.

It's also suggesting referendums, fixed election dates and a variety of other changes.

Several other Canadian provinces have examined whether to change their election systems in an attempt to lower public cynicism and reverse the decline in voter turnout.

New Brunswick's commission went several steps further.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Lorne McGuigan, who co-chaired the commission, said the recommendations should be seen as a launching pad for further discussion. "We are talking about how democracy as a whole works, how you elect people to the legislature, how people have a voice, how the legislature actually operates."

There are 89 recommendations in all, including the use of referendums, fixed election dates and more research money for members of the legislature.

But the centrepiece is a mixed-member proportional representation system.

A total of 36 MLAs would be elected in traditional ridings, while a further 20 would be chosen based on the percentage of the vote each party gets.

The opposition Liberals are already complaining that the public won't be able to understand the complicated mathematical formula, which is designed to offset lopsided majorities like Frank McKenna's 1987 sweep of every seat in the legislature.

"We have a model that is going to be absolutely impossible for people to understand," complained Liberal house leader Kelly Lamrock.

Even Lord, who appointed the commission and asked it to study proportional representation, wouldn't commit to following the recommendations. "I don't want to start listing off: we'll act on this; we won't act on this. I want us to take the time to fully assess the whole report."

Lord's only promise was that if his government decides to go ahead, he'll hold a referendum to ask voters to approve the changes to the electoral system.



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