A History of the Electoral Reform of Prince Edward Island

Last updated 2019; Primary Source: Elections PEI; Secondary Sources: Journals of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, Parliamentary Guide, Executive Council Records.

  1700 - 1800

1773 - The first House of Assembly elected on July 4, 1773 and consisted of 18 members

1799 - The name of the Island changed to Prince Edward Island.

1803 - The First Election Act passed regarding elections to the House of Assembly.

1830 - The right to vote extended to Catholic males.

1838 - The Assembly increased to 24 members elected in 4 dual member constituencies in each of the three counties.

1856 - The Assembly further expanded to 30 members elected in 5 dual member districts in
             each of the three counties. During this same time there was also a Legislative  Council
             which represented electors with property interests. The Legislative Council initially
             consisted of 12 members and by 1859 expanded to 17 members.

1861 - An Act proclaimed which made the Legislative Assembly elective and reduced its number
            of members to 13 members. These members elected in dual member constituencies in
            each county and a single member constituency in the Charlottetown area.

1893 - The Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council joined to create 15 dual districts (30
            members) with five electoral districts in each of the three counties.

         - The Act Respecting the Representation of the People of the Legislature passed by the
            Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council adjusting the boundaries of ridings in
            Kings County so that the five districts in the County were more equitable in terms of
            population.

  1900 - 1969

1921 - Voting franchise extended to include women.

1961 - The Provincial Government appointed a Royal Commission on Electoral Reform.

1963 - The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform recommended a provincial Election Act and to: create
            the position of a Chief Electoral Officer; establish a system for enumerating electors. The
            Commission suggested to extend the vote to the Province's aboriginal peoples; abolish the
            franchise for Councillor seats; and the number of electoral districts remains at 15 dual member
            districts with the elimination of the electoral district of 5th Kings and a new electoral district
            added to Queens, namely, sixth Queens.

1965 - Election Act revised, the number of electoral districts increased from 15 dual member districts to
           16 dual member districts and the electoral district of 5th Kings recreated and added to Kings
           County before the 1966 provincial general election.

1965 - July 13, G. Lorne Monkley (1965 to 1978) appointed as the province's first Chief Electoral Officer.

1967 - An amendment to the Election Act approved on May 17, 1967 changing the qualifications of
            electors from 21 years of age to 18 years of age on or before ordinary polling day. The first
            provincial election that followed this change held on May 11, 1970.

  1970 - 1989

1973 - May 17 - Layton Schurman (1973 to 1996) appointed as the province's first Deputy Chief
            Electoral Officer.

1974  - The provincial Government established a legislative committee, the Electoral
             Boundaries Committee. The committee recommended rearranging the electoral            
             boundaries to provide for better geographical and population representation. The
             province took no action on the committee's recommendation.

1978 - Nov 1 - Arthur J. Currie (1978 to 1986) appointed as the province's second Chief Electoral
            Officer, with Layton Schurman remaining as the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer.

1982 - Government of Canada adopted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

1986 - Aug 7 - Merrill H. Wigginton (1986 to 2005) appointed as the province's third Chief
            Electoral Officer, with Layton Schurman remaining as the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer.

  1990 - 1995

1991       Feb 15 - Donald MacKinnon filed an application with the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island
               asking that sections 147, 148, 149 150 and 151 of the Election Act be declared null and void.
               These sections were the electoral boundaries descriptions for the 16 electoral districts.

1992       Oct-Dec - Prince Edward Island Supreme Court held hearings before The Honourable Mr. Justice
               DesRoches. The City of Charlottetown joined Mr. MacKinnon as an intervenor

1993       Feb 16 - Justice DesRoches issued a decision stating that sections 147 to 151 of the Election Act
               were contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms pending the necessary legislative
               action to remedy the legislation. Justice DesRoches also recommended that remedial action
              should take place within a reasonable period of time.

               Sep 9 - Order in Council No. EC451/93 established the Election Act and Electoral Boundaries
               Commission.

1993       Oct - The Election Act and Electoral Boundaries Commission called for submissions from the
               public.

1994       Mar 17 - The Election Act and Electoral Boundaries Commission presented its final report to the
               Legislative Assembly of PEI recommending 30 single member districts.

                May 6 - Ross Young presented a private members bill, Bill No. 100, the Electoral Boundaries Act
               to the Legislative Assembly from which the present map has been drawn

              May 11 - Electoral Boundaries Act, Bill No. 100, received second reading.

              May 19 - Electoral Boundaries Act received Assent. This Act comes into force upon a passing of
               an order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council pursuant to section 5 of the Election Act for the
               general election next following enactment of this Act.

  1996 - 2000

1995       Feb 17 - City of Charlottetown and other urban centres filed a Notice of Application to the
               Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island claiming the Electoral Boundaries Act was inconsistent
              with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the process by which the Legislative
              Assembly determined the Electoral Boundaries Act was flawed.

1996       Mar-Apr - Chief Justice K. R. MacDonald, Supreme Court, Trials Division, heard the City of
              Charlottetown's application.

1996       June 6 - Lowell J. Croken was appointed as the province's second Deputy Chief Electoral Officer.

                Nov 18 - Provincial general election was held based on the newly designed electoral districts as
               approved by the Electoral Boundaries Act thus creating the first Legislative Assembly of 27
               single members.

                Dec 13 - Chief Justice K. R. MacDonald, Supreme Court, Trials Division, dismissed the City of
              Charlottetown's application.

1998       The city of Charlottetown filed an application to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island
               requesting the Supreme Court to overturn Chief Justice MacDonald's December 13, 1996
               electoral boundaries decision.

                Dec. 9-13 - The appeal of Mr. Justice Kenneth R. MacDonald's December 13, 1996, electoral
              boundaries decision was heard by the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island.

1999       April 6 - The Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island issued a decision supporting Chief Justice
              MacDonald's December 13, 1996 decision.

                The City of Charlottetown filed an application to the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa to
               requesting the Court to overturn Chief Justice MacDonald's December 13, 1996 electoral
               boundaries decision.

                December - The Supreme Court of Canada denies an application by the City of Charlottetown for
               leave to appeal a P.E.I. Supreme Court decision on the Electoral Boundaries Act.

  2001 - 2005

2001 - The Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, Special Committee on the Election Act
             requested Elections PEI to review systems of proportional representations presently in
              existence in other jurisdictions.

2002 - April 5 - Merrill H. Wigginton, Chief Electoral Officer, presented The Honourable Mildred
             Dover, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly with the Elections PEI Report on Proportional Representation

2003 - January 21 - Retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island,
            Honourable Norman H. Carruthers appointed to head the Prince Edward Island
            Commission on Electoral Reform. Commissioner Carruthers consulted with Islanders and
            delivered his 2003 Electoral Reform Commission Report to Premier Pat Binns on
            December 18, 2003.

            September 29 - general election held electing the third Legislative Assembly based on
             the Electoral Boundaries Act 27 single member districts.

2004 - January 5 - Electoral Boundaries Commission appointed to review the electoral
             boundaries for the 27 provincial electoral districts. The Commission was comprised of
             Justice John McQuaid, Chair and Commissioners John Mitchell, Q.C. and Roberta Hubley.
             The Commission released an Interim Report on June 30, 2004 and a Final Report on
             October 5, 2004 presented to The Honourable Greg Deighan, Speaker of the Legislative
             Assembly.

             December 16 - The Legislative Assembly passed Motion No. 32 which directed the
             Legislative Standing Committee on Legislative Management to appoint an eight person
             commission, known as the Commission on Prince Edward Island's Electoral Future.

             The Commission directed to further the work of the Prince Edward Island Electoral
             Reform Commission. The Commission is to develop and conduct a public education
             program, designed to increase among the general public of P.E.I. awareness of the
             present First Past the Post Electoral System and a Mixed Member Proportional System
             as well as to develop a clear and concise plebiscite question.

2005 - February 17 - Hon. Greg Deighan, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Chair of the
            Standing Committee on Legislative Management, announced appointments to the
            Commission on Prince Edward Island’s Electoral Future. Speaker Deighan said, "The
            Standing Committee on Legislative Management was directed by the Legislative
            Assembly to appoint an eight Member Commission to:

  • develop and conduct a public education program to increase among Islanders an
      understanding of our present "first past the post" electoral system and, as an alternative, a mixed member proportional system
  • develop a plebiscite question on which electoral system is preferred by Islanders
  • recommend when a plebiscite on this matter should be held

             April 30 - Lowell J. Croken appointed as the Acting Chief Electoral Officer.

             September 7 - The Green Party of Prince Edward Island was officially registered as the
             fourth provincial political party on P.E.I.

            October 28 - The Final Report by Commission on Prince Edward Island’s Electoral Future presented to the Speaker of the House, The Hon. Gregory J. Deighan

            November 28 - Provincial Plebiscite for the Mixed Member Proportional System for
            Prince Edward Island. The Plebiscite ran under the Plebiscites Act and the Proportional System Regulations.

  2006-2010

2006 - May 4 - Legislative Assembly rejected the proposed electoral boundaries as
            recommended by the Electoral Boundaries Commission on October 5, 2004. The
            Legislative Assembly Report of the Special Committee on Prince Edward Island’s Electoral Boundaries
            directed Elections PEI to produce new electoral maps and descriptions delineating the area and boundaries
            of the province's 27 electoral districts. The boundaries were to be limited to a plus or minus of 15% variance as
            compared to the electoral quotient.

            May 9 - Lowell J. Croken appointed as the Chief Electoral Officer. Norma Palmer-Bowers
             appointed as the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer.

           June 14 - Elections PEI Report of the Descriptions and Maps for the
           Proposed 27 Electoral Districts released to the public.

           June 28 - The Legislative Assembly approved Bill No. 49 - An Act to Amend the Electoral
           Boundaries Act creating new electoral boundaries as proposed by Cletus Dunn MLA,
           District No. 26 Alberton - Miminegash.

2007 - April 27 - Election Act was amended to establish fixed election dates at 4 year
            intervals with the next general election to be held on Monday, May 12, 2008 and
            thereafter, general elections shall be held on the second Monday of May in the fourth
            calendar year following ordinary polling day in the most recent election. 

            May 28 - General election held electing the first Legislative Assembly based on the 2006
            amended Electoral Boundaries Act 27 single member districts.

2008 - May 22 - Election Act was amended to change the fixed election date to Monday,
            October 3, 2011 and thereafter, general elections shall be held on the first Monday of
            October in the fourth calendar year following ordinary polling day in the most recent
            election (October 3, 2011).

2010 - March 5 - The Island Party of Prince Edward Island officially registered as the fifth
            provincial political party on P.E.I

  2011 - 2015

2011       October 3 - General election was held electing the second Legislative Assembly based on the                  
               2006 amended Electoral Boundaries Act 27 single member districts.

2012       April 2 - Norma Palmer-Bowers retired as the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer.

                November 22 - Judy Richard was appointed as the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer.

2013       January 4 - Gary McLeod was appointed as the Chief Electoral Officer.

2015       July 2015 - Premier, Hon. Wade MacLauchlan released a report intitled the White Paper on Democratic Renewal
                which renewed the conversation on electoral reform. It outlined the guidelines of a special legislative committee, the Comittee on Democratic Renewal which was
                formed to determine the plebiscite question and its format which would be presented to Islanders in 2016.
               November 27 - Special Committee on Democratic Renewal release their First Report with Recommendations in Response to the White Paper on Democratic Renewal    

  2016 Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal

2016       May 2016 -The Plebiscites Act was amended allowing for 16 and 17 year olds the opportunity to vote in the plebiscite on
              Democratic Renewal. The Election Act was amended to allow the Chief Electoral Officer the authority to collect and
               maintain information about persons who live in the Province and may become eligible to  vote. This allows for the pre-registration of underage voters (16 and 17 years of age)
                who will become an eligible elector in the Register of Electors once they become 18.

                October 29-November 7 - A provincial plebiscite on Electoral Reform was held utilizing online voting methods paired with two days of in-person paper ballot voting. The         
                 plebiscite ballot used Preferential Ballot voting method offering 5 choices for Islanders on the ballot:

  • First-Past-The-Post
  • First-Past-The-Post Plus Leaders
  • Mixed Member Proportional Representation
  • Dual Member Proportional Representation
  • Preferential Ballot.           

               The plebiscite saw an overall voter turnout of 37,354 (36.5%) with Mixed Member Proportional
               Representation winning in the 4th round of counting.

              This plebiscite was not binding, but an  initiative aimed at seeking public opinion on the interest for change. Due to low voter turnout, it
              was determined by Government that a Referendum be held in conjunction with the next provincial election in hopes of increasing voter participation and reaching turnout
               levels which would initiate further action. A referendum on Electoral Reform is scheduled to take place with the next provincial election, in 2019.

  2016 - 2019

2016      April 15 -  Special Committee on Democratic Renewal release their Second Report with Recommendations in Response to the White Paper on Democratic Renewal - A
                Plebiscite Question

              October 17  - Provincial By-Election in District 21: Summerside – Wilmot with Chris Palmer (LIB) winning the By-Election
              December - PEI electoral boundaries commission named: Chair: Gerard Mitchell.  Commissioners:  Lynn Murray, Libby Shaw, Elmer MacDonald and  Kerri Carpenter

2017      April 26 - Stephanie Roberts was appointed as the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer
               May 5 - 2017 Report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission
               June 5- Marian Johnston, Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees for the Legislative Assembly is acting Chief Electoral Officer.
               November 16 - Tim Garrity was appointed as Chief Electoral Officer
               November 27 - Provincial By-Election for District 11: Charlottetown - Parkdale with Hannah Bell (Green) winning the by-election.
                November – PEI Electoral Boundaries Commission appointed to draw an electoral map of 18 districts to be used as an educational tool as part of the Referendum on electoral
                voting systems. Gerard Mitchell named as Chair with Commissioners: Lynn Murray Libby Shaw Elmer MacDonald Kerri Carpenter

2018      March 13 – Electoral Boundaries Commission submits the Special Report of the  Electoral Boundaries Commission to the Speaker of the House the Hon. Francis (Buck) Watts  

           November 28 – Gerard Mitchell appointed as Referendum Commissioner of PEI to oversee the upcoming Referendum to vote on the voting system PEI will use to elect members
             to the Legislative Assembly.

2019 –  February 1 – Referendum period begins and triggers a provincial general election to be held within an eight month window   

2019 - April 19 - Green Party Candidate, Josh Underhay from District 9 passed away as a result of an accident forcing the retraction of the Grant of Poll, and forcing a     
                            "deferred election" to be held  no later than July 19, 2019.
2019 - April 23 - PEI elects a Minority Government for the first time since the 1880's.  The legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island will now consist of                       
                           12 Progressive Conservatives,8 Green Party and 6 Liberal. The final seat will be decided with the By-Election in District 9.
                           NOTE: Voting was delayed at one polling station on Election Day due to a bomb threat. The Poll was evacuated and RCMP with the assistance
                                          of a trained bomb dog searched the premises and after 2 hours deemed it safe to resume the polling activities. This is an on-going 
                                          investigation.
2019 - April 23 - Referendum PEI reports the island wide referendum vote to decide the future of PEI's electoral system was completed with the Opponents winning 
                           in 12 districts and the Proponents winning in 15. A total of 17 districts (or 60% threshold) was established in order to be declared a winner.        
2019 - May 09 - Premier-designate Dennis King sworn-in as Prince Edward Island's 33rd premier, alongside the new executive council, by
                            Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry at the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown.