11/08/2016 11:37 EST | Updated 11/09/2017 00:12 EST

P.E.I. electoral reform plebiscite gives hope, angst to federal reformers

OTTAWA — The outcome of a Prince Edward Island plebiscite on electoral reform is giving hope to those who are pushing Canada to adopt a proportional voting system nationally.

But the fact that so few Islanders bothered to vote is simultaneously underscoring the dilemma facing the Trudeau government: is there sufficient interest in electoral reform to justify proceeding at the federal level?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef have both repeatedly said they won't go ahead without a broad consensus on an alternative to the current first-past-the-post voting system.

Just 36 per cent of P.E.I.'s eligible voters cast ballots in the non-binding provincial plebiscite; of those, 52 per cent voted for a mixed member proportional system, 42.8 per cent supported sticking with the status quo.

In other words, just over 18 per cent of eligible voters opted to change the voting system.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan says the low turnout means the result can't be considered a clear expression of the will of Islanders.