PEI 2016: Referendum favors MMP

The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) held a referendum (“plebiscite”) on electoral reform. The voting, which could be done online or by phone, took place from 27 October to 7 November, Results have now been announced, and the majority preference is mixed-member proportional (MMP).

Interestingly, it was a vote among multiple options, conducted by alternative vote (instant runoff). The initial plurality choice was the status quo, first past the post (FPTP). But this was the first choice of only 31.2%. The runner up in first preferences was MMP, with 29%.

Through elimination of lower-ranking choices and transfer of preferences, MMP came out with a majority on the fourth round of counting, 55% to 45% over FPTP (leaving out exhausted ballots, which were just under 5%).

Other options were “FPTP with leaders” (status quo, except that party leaders who did not win a riding would get a seat if the party cleared 10%), “Preferential Voting” (i.e., alternative vote), and something new called “Dual-Member Proportional“.

Perhaps it is not at all surprising that the transfer patterns reveal a “change as little as possible if we must change” coalition and a “more change” coalition. FPTP took a bigger lead on the count following elimination of FPTP+, by far the most timid of the reform proposals. After the elimination of AV, which would be the next most-similar proposal to the status quo, MMP actually got more of these voters (43.9% to 36.7% for FPTP). Given that DMPR got 19.5%, the pro-AV voters had a clear majority for some sort of PR over keeping majoritarianism. On the final count, MMP got 82.6% of the eliminated votes for DMPR. This adds up to quite a clear consensus for a move away from the majoritarian model. (Note that STV was not an option.)

PEI had a referendum on an official proposal for MMP in 2005, which went down to a big defeat. Since that time, the province has continued to have some of the odd results (e.g. 2007) that are inherent to FPTP, especially given such a small assembly. In the most recent provincial election (2015) there was another large manufactured majority, although the Green Party managed to win a seat despite just 11% of the provincewide vote.

The timing of the vote is interesting, given that the federal parliamentary committee studying electoral reform is due to report in just a few weeks.

The PEI referendum result is non-binding.

11 thoughts on “PEI 2016: Referendum favors MMP

    • The proposal was actually that leaders would run *only* in province-wide seats, and not run locally anywhere.

      “First-past-the-post Plus Leader is based on the province’s current electoral system with the addition of seats award to leaders of political parties which receive a certain threshold in the popular vote. This means that the popular vote would count towards electing party leaders. Their constituencies would be the entire province, and *they would not run in a local district.* The committee recognizes that this may mean that the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly may fluctuate[…].”

      (emphasis mine, p. 14 here:


    • With 27 MLAs, those outside PEI see an obvious STV model: use the four federal ridings, add an MLA, and have them elect 7 MLAs each.

      Well, not obvious to Islanders. No one proposed an STV model, that I saw.


    • No reasons for exclusion of STV were given in the reports of the Special Committee that was charged with coming up with a plebiscite question.
      ( renewal/)

      Possibly it was due to lack of a strong champion in the competition for room on the ballot. MMP was familiar from the PEI referendum of a decade earlier and many pro-PR submissions to the Committee seemed to assume MMP by default. Dual Member Proportional was presented as a new, made-in-Canada system; DMP may have resonated with Islanders, who from 1893 to 1994 had elected legislators in 2- member constituencies.

      Or it may simply have been one of the usual suspects: bias of expert advisors or perceived political advantage.


  1. Several lessons from the referendum results:
    1. Only 10.6% support for “preferential voting,” the preferential ballot in single-member ridings, the phony reform also known as the Alternative Vote or Instant Run-off Voting. That should help to mark the end of that option federally, which only 4% of expert witnesses who expressed a preference supported at the Electoral Reform Committee, while 88% called for proportional representation.
    2. Even the 10.6% who supported AV divided 63:37 in favour of PR as their second preference.
    3. Open-list MMP is better than closed-list MMP, in Canada.


  2. Pingback: Try, try again | Fruits and Votes

  3. Pingback: PEI 2019: Provincial assembly election and MMP referendum | Fruits and Votes

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