Gerard Mitchell is a good choice as PEI’s Referendum Commissioner. The respected former Justice is very capable and has shown through the years his genuine commitment to the public interest and to making Island society better for all citizens.
The perception that Justice Mitchell was favoured early-on by Premier MacLauchlan should not tarnish his appointment. He can be trusted to ensure that the referendum process will be carried out in full accordance with the terms of the Electoral System Referendum Act.
It goes without saying that the Commissioner needs to be provided with sufficient resources — staff, administrative and technological support, full access to every kind of media for reaching out to all citizens — to carry out the lead-up duties and to conduct the referendum itself. And for this, there must be total transparency, with evident independence from influence by Cabinet, any political party, or the ‘sides’ of the debate.
New Democrats are convinced that the most important aspect of the Commissioner’s role is public education and engagement. He has the responsibility to make sure that Islanders are well equipped for casting their vote. We must all have clear and unbiased information about the two options: Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) and First Past the Post (FPTP). And beyond simple facts, we must all take responsibility for analytical thought, judgement, and the exercise of our democratic right.
As NDP Leader, I encourage all MLAs to approve the appointment of Justice Mitchell as Referendum Commissioner. And I wish the Commissioner good success in leading us toward this historic decision for our province.