Lobby group calls for referendum on electoral reform
Published September 20th 2006 in CBC News

The fact that Liberals won the most seats in the New Brunswick election but lost in the popular vote illustrates the need for electoral reform, Fair Vote Canada said Tuesday.

The Liberals won 29 of the legislature's 55 seats in Monday's vote, even though they finished with 1,500 fewer votes than the Progressive Conservatives.

Larry Gordon, executive director of the lobby group Fair Vote Canada, said that proves the current system doesn't work.

"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," he said.

"We watch somewhat amazed as you see a premier-elect who came in second place speaking about the mandate that he just received from voters, and a defeated premier who actually got more votes saying he's leaving office because the people have spoken."

Gordon said the Liberals should hold a referendum on introducing proportional representation, which could see some MLAs elected according to the level of support for each party.

Outgoing Premier Bernard Lord had promised to hold a referendum on the issue in two years. He made the decision after a provincial committee on legislative reform recommended adopting a system based in part on proportional representation last year.

Liberals won't commit to referendum

The Liberals have never supported the idea of a referendum. On Tuesday, premier-designate Shawn Graham said it was time to stop focusing on the fact that he lost the popular vote.

"The political pundits can focus on the outcome of the last election," Graham said. "I'm focused on the future of the province."

Keith Ashfield, a Progressive Conservative who was re-elected, said the government should consider a referendum on a new system in the wake of Monday's result.

"Certainly if we had a proportional system, it would have been more reflective of the vote," he said.

Not all Liberals are against discussing the idea of proportional representation. Hilary Casey, the president of New Brunswick's Young Liberal Association, said the province should engage in a debate that's taking place across the country.

"It's a trend across Canada that all provinces have talked about pr as a system," he said. "Whether its the best system for New Brunswick is still up for debate."