Aylward urges a public and transparent selection process for Referendum Commissioner

Stratford - Opposition Leader James Aylward is urging MLA's on the Legislative Management Committee to adopt a more public and transparent selection process for the province’s Referendum Commissioner.

Aylward made his comments in advance of an upcoming meeting of the Legislative Management Committee to be held on Thursday.

"The Referendum Commissioner has an important role to play in the upcoming referendum so it’s important that we select the best person possible to do that job. That’s why I’m renewing my call for a more publicly transparent process to select the Referendum Commissioner, " said Aylward.

Aylward wrote the committee members in June urging Liberal and Green members of the committee to support a more open and collaborative approach to selecting the Referendum Commissioner. Aylward is calling for the position of Referendum Commissioner position to be publicly advertised as other independent officers of the Legislative Assembly such as the Auditor General, the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the CEO of Elections PEI. Aylward is also asking for any Legislative Management Committee meetings dealing with the selection of the Referendum Commissioner to be open to the public, as is now the practice with other legislative committees following reforms championed by the Official Opposition.

According to referendum legislation passed this spring a Referendum Commissioner will be appointed in advance of the referendum on electoral reform to be held in conjunction with the next provincial election. The Referendum Commissioner must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature upon recommendation from the all-party Legislative Management Committee.

Legislative Management Committee meetings are typically held in camera behind closed doors. Aylward noted that the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy, which is the federal counterpart of PEI's Legislative Management Committee, has held all their meetings open to the public and webcasted since last June. Additionally, several provinces such as Newfoundland and British Columbia hold similar committee meetings publicly and broadcast the proceedings.

"Lack of public confidence in the process was a major issue during the debate over the referendum bill this spring. I’m not sure hand picking someone behind closed doors to be the Referendum Commissioner will strengthen that public confidence so I’m hopeful that the rest of the committee will support my request," said Aylward.