Prince Edward Island: “A beacon of engagement”

November 12th, 2013 by Dan Allan

The Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island reconvenes at Province House today to open the 4th Session of the 64th General Assembly.

PEI has been described as “a beacon of engagement” as “voting is a must for most in the province, not an afterthought.”

Voter turnout during the 2011 PEI provincial election was the “lowest in decades” (76.5 per cent of Islanders voted, compared to 83.8% in 2007), but PEI still consistently has the highest turnout in Canada, at both the provincial and federal level. Federal turnout in 2011 was only 61.1 per cent.

Troy Media columnist Andy Walker wrote last week about the great democratic tradition in PEI:

Tucked between Remembrance Day and Christmas is a highlight of the year for many Islanders – the fall sitting of the provincial legislature.

I have been told there are provinces where the visitor’s gallery at the legislature is virtually empty most of the time and where most people don’t know who their elected representative is. PEI is on the other end of the spectrum.

The visitor’s gallery is usually full and the first 10 to 15 minutes is usually taken up by MLA’s welcoming their constituents. Many Islanders go to the building where the Fathers of Confederation met 149 years ago each sitting day to watch the proceedings. Hundreds more watch on the local cable channel.

The best way to ensure electoral success is PEI is to be “a good constituency person.” Islanders expected their MLA to be at weddings, funerals, anniversaries and birthdays. Every high school graduate gets a letter from the premier. It is not uncommon for an elected politician to help a constituent fill in a job application or apply for a passport – especially if they are a senior and the application involves a computer.

This trend may not be as prevalent as it once was, but it is still too strong to ignore for any politician or would be politician. Watching their elected representatives in action is just a logical extension of that mentality.

The session that begins November 12 should prove to be one of the most interesting in recent memory. 

We’re proud to work with many great educators in Prince Edward Island. Nearly 5,000 PEI students took part in our 2011 provincial Student Vote program, and more than 6,500 PEI students cast ballots during the 2011 federal Student Vote program.

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