Slim majority vote ‘no’ to electoral reform in Prince Edward Island referendum

Slim majority vote ‘no’ to electoral reform referendum

CHARLOTTETOWN — A slim majority of Prince Edward Island voters have rejected a switch to a proportional representation electoral system, though it remains unclear how the province’s new government will respond.

Voters were also asked to answer a referendum question: “Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?”

All parties had accepted that whichever side won more than 50 per cent of the votes cast in at least 17 of the 27 ridings would be declared the victor. By late Tuesday, the “No” side had captured close to 51 per cent of the total votes, with the “Yes” side holding 49 per cent. Two advance polls had yet to report.

However, neither side had won 17 ridings, with the “Yes” victorious in 15 and “No” taking 12.

Gerard Mitchell, the referendum commissioner, said in an interview earlier in the evening that if neither side reached the 17-seat threshold, “it means it wouldn’t be binding on government.”

“If it’s close enough then I guess government, or whoever is governing, will have to make a decision.”

The premier-designate, Tory Leader Dennis King, said Tuesday he would “leave it up the legislature.”

Peter Bevan-Baker, the leader of the Green Party, which took eight seats and will form the opposition, said the result was “agonizingly close.”

“I really would have liked P.E.I. to have been a pioneer here in adopting proportional representation,” he said. “But I think it is inevitable that proportional representation is coming. We are not going to be the ones leading that charge in Canada but we came very close and Islanders showed there was a level of discomfort with the status quo.”

The leaders of all four political parties had said during a leaders’ debate they would consider the result binding if the thresholds were reached, but it was less clear what would happen if they were not achieved.

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