Local Green MLA Megan Mitton is calling on Premier Higgs to implement far-reaching electoral reform instead of musing about cutting the number of seats in the New Brunswick legislature.
“Frankly, I’m disappointed to hear that type of discussion happen as if democracy is the problem here,” Mitton said during a year-end interview in Sackville last week.
The member for Memramcook-Tantramar was commenting on a recent report in the Irving-owned Telegraph-Journal in which Higgs is quoted as suggesting that since MLAs can be “barriers” to economic prosperity, it might be a good idea to reduce their numbers in the legislature.
The newspaper adds that although Higgs isn’t seriously considering chopping the number of MLAs from the current 49, the issue concerns him because it’s a “struggle” to persuade politicians to support economic development initiatives if they don’t garner votes in local constituencies.
Mitton suggested that having less representation in the legislature would do nothing to solve the province’s real economic problems.
“Some of the major problems we have in New Brunswick have to do with the monopoly we have around the press, around industries, and it’s not about the people working in those industries, it’s about how the power and wealth is distributed in our province,” Mitton said.
“Frankly, if we’re going to look at electoral reform, I’d like to see proportional representation,” she added.
Mitton pointed out that a Progressive Conservative government led by Bernard Lord established a commission to study legislative democracy in 2004 and when it recommended a system of proportional representation, the premier promised to hold a referendum on it during the municipal elections of 2008.
However, when Lord lost power in the 2006 provincial election, the Liberals scrapped the idea. (To read Professor Paul Howe’s study of proportional representation in New Brunswick, click here.)
“The idea for proportional representation has been around for a long time,” Mitton said, “so I’d like to see Higgs do that.”