PEI gov’t torches its own ER referendum

New rules set fire to democratic process and burn voters

New referendum legislation introduced by the PEI Government has been criticized for setting biased rules for the Island’s upcoming electoral reform referendum.

This is far beyond just tilting the playing field,” said Margaret Rao, CUSJ President. “Premier Wade MacLaughlin’s proposed rules will torch the whole referendum, wasting everyone’s time and money. But it is really Islanders getting burned here.”

Bill 38 attempts to set new rules mandating that:

  • Electors casting ballots in the general election, but not in the referendum held at the same time, will be effectively counted as voting for the current FPTP system;
  • A double-majority is required for change: Anything less than 50% voter participation in the referendum means results can be ignored by government…and even then, a majority result for change can be ignored under some circumstances;
  • Individual citizens and civil society groups can no longer donate towards any campaigning – the only campaign spending to be allowed is from taxpayer funds: a $75,000 government handout to ‘both sides’ (although the current PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation Coalition would be disqualified under the new rules);
  • Restrictions, including the ban on spending, are to be put in place over a pre-campaign “registration period” starting on July 1, 2018 and ending when the next writ is dropped, effectively placing a gag order on groups from engaging the public on democratic reform until the 2020 election.

I’m disheartened and angry that a sitting government will manipulate the referendum to ensure an outcome that favours the ruling party,” said Bunty Albert, a CUSJ member in Charlottetown. “It wasn’t enough that this government ignored Islander wishes in the 2016 plebiscite. Now they are throwing the entire referendum into the fire. These rules are blatantly anti-democratic.”

Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice (CUSJ) is a national faith-based organization founded to support Unitarian Principles through social action. Their Fifth Principle promotes ‘the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.’

For more information:

Bunty Albert, CUSJ member:

Margaret Rao, CUSJ President: Tel. 416-658-0998 or

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