2019 Prince Edward Island electoral reform referendum
|Electoral System Referendum|
|Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?|
|Location||Prince Edward Island|
|Date||April 23, 2019|
A referendum on electoral reform was held on April 23, 2019 in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island – simultaneously with the 2019 provincial election – to determine if the province should adopt a mixed-member proportional representation voting system (MMP). The referendum was not binding, as neither option received majority support in 60% or more of the province's 27 electoral districts, however the popular vote was a narrow majority in favour of keeping the existing first-past-the-post system.
A referendum on the issue was held October 27 to November 7, 2016. That referendum asked which of five voting systems residents would prefer to use in electing members to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island. The referendum, after four instant run-off rounds, indicated mixed member proportional representation was the preferred choice with over 52% support on the final ballot.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan said after the vote that he is doubtful the result of the referendum "can be said to constitute a clear expression of the will of Prince Edward Islanders" due to the low voter turnout relative to provincial general elections. As the result of political pressure, MacLauchlan's government introduced a motion in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island to hold another referendum on electoral reform at the next provincial general election, stating that the low turnout for the referendum did not provide a mandate to implement the change and the need for a more specific referendum question with two choices. A motion by Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker to implement mixed-member proportional representation in line with the referendum results was defeated on November 22, 2016 by a vote of 6–20.
Referendum question and threshold
Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?
(According to the Act, "No" was required to appear on the referendum ballot above "Yes")
In order for the referendum to be legally binding, either side was required to receive a majority of voters in at least 60% (17) of the province's 27 provincial electoral districts. Before the results were announced, Gerard Mitchell, the referendum commissioner, confirmed the 60% threshold saying if the vote was close "whoever is governing will have to make a decision".
The campaign period for the referendum began on February 1, 2019 and applications opened for Yes and No campaigns to apply for public funding.
During the campaign, Liberal leader Wade MacLauchlan did not take a public position on the vote. The leaders of all other parties, however, were on record as supporting a move to MMP. The leaders were also asked about their referendum positions in the CBC Leaders' Debate.
|Polling organisation/client||Sample size||No||Yes||Unsure||Lead|
|14–17 Apr 2019||Mainstreet Research||636||48.8%||51.2%||N/A||2.4%|
|12–15 Apr 2019||Narrative Research/The Guardian||538||42%||42%||16%||Tie|
|11–16 Apr 2019||MQO Research||400||35%||47%||18%||12%|
|7 Nov 2016||2016 plebiscite||37,040||42.8%||52.4%||N/A||9.6%|
The referendum was defeated, with 15 districts voting to adopt MMP and 12 voting to maintain the current system. The popular vote was a narrow majority in favour of keeping the current first-past-the-post system. Neither side, however, received a majority in 60% of districts (17/27) and therefore the referendum is not binding on the government. A post referendum recount in District 20 widened the FPTP victory somewhat. That district actually voted for FPTP and the actual popular vote was 52% for FPTP and 48% for PR.
|Option||District vote||Popular vote|
Current FPTP system retained
Province adopts MMP as electoral system
|Source: Elections PEI|
Following the preliminary results, Brenda Oslawsky of Vote Yes P.E.I. said that the result showed there was "significant support" for MMP, and that the group was calling on the government to convene a citizens assembly to study electoral reform. Responding to the results, Progressive Conservative leader Dennis King said Islanders have an interest in furthering the conversation on how they govern themselves and elect members of the legislature. He said he would like to see continued discussion of electoral reform in the Legislature. Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Green Party, called the results "agonizingly close" and said it is inevitable that proportional representation is coming but that PEI is not going to be the province leading the charge.
John Barrett of No What to Vote said the result was closer than expected but they were pleased with the result overall. Calling the result decisive, he said "Fifty-one per cent is a win and we'll take it". Barrett also said electoral reform is not off the table going forward, noting that his group was not opposed to electoral reform, only the specific model which had been proposed (MMP).
- Roberts, Rob (July 7, 2016). "PEI sets voting-reform plebiscite for fall". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- McKenna, Peter (September 21, 2016). "Electoral reform in P.E.I. redux". Charlottetown, PEI: The Guardian Charlottetown. Archived from the original on October 3, 2016. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- Campbell, Kerry (April 16, 2016). "P.E.I. electoral reform: 4 unanswered questions about the plebiscite". CBC. Archived from the original on October 3, 2016. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- Bradley, Susan (November 8, 2016). "P.E.I. plebiscite results favour mixed member proportional representation". CBC News. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
- Sinclair, Jesara (November 8, 2016). "Premier calls plebiscite results 'debatable,' cites low turnout". CBC News. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
- "Motion No. 80, Democratic renewal: a clear question and a binding vote". www.assembly.pe.ca. Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.
- Wright, Teresa (November 22, 2016). "Motion urging P.E.I. government to honour electoral reform vote defeated". The Guardian. Charlottetown. Archived from the original on November 24, 2016. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
- "Motion No. 54 , Plebiscite on electoral reform". www.assembly.pe.ca. Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.
- "Much-amended P.E.I. referendum legislation passes". CBC News. June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
- Ross, Ryan (June 13, 2018). "Liberals vote to support P.E.I. referendum bill". The Guardian. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
- The Canadian Press (June 12, 2018). "PEI poised for battle over electoral reform". Toronto Star. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
- The Canadian Press (April 24, 2019). "Slim majority vote 'no' to electoral reform in P.E.I. referendum". CTV News. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- Section 4 of Electoral System Referendum Act, RSPEI 1988, c E-2.2 available at  and on CanLII at .
- Tutton, Michael (April 23, 2019). "Prince Edward Island voters say 'no' to electoral reform referendum by slim majority". Global News. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- Tutton, Michael (April 24, 2019). "P.E.I. Voters Narrowly Reject Switch To Proportional Representation In Referendum". HuffPost. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- Neatby, Stu (January 31, 2019). "Election in the air: P.E.I. electoral reform referendum campaigning period begins Feb. 1". The Guardian. Charlottetown. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
- Campbell, Kerry (April 4, 2019). "Leaders say they will honour the vote in P.E.I's referendum on electoral reform". CBC News. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- CBC News (April 16, 2019). "Watch the CBC P.E.I. Leaders Debate April 16". CBC News. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- Smith, Katie (April 23, 2019). "P.E.I. voters split on electoral reform". The Guardian. Charlottetown, PEI. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
- CBC News (May 17, 2019). "Elections P.E.I. discovers error in referendum vote count". CBC News. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
- Yarr, Kevin (April 24, 2019). "P.E.I.'s new minority government will proceed 'issue-by-issue,' says premier designate". CBC News. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
- Smith, Katie (April 24, 2019). "'No' side pleased with status quo after P.E.I. electoral reform referendum". The Guardian. Charlottetown, PEI. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
- CBC News (April 24, 2019). "What's next for the referendum question on P.E.I.?". CBC News. Retrieved April 25, 2019.