Island voters return Liberals to power with 22 seats; Conservatives increase total to five
Prince Edward Island voters handed Premier Robert Ghiz a second majority government Monday but it was far from the sweep some had predicted.
Ghiz's Liberals came out ahead early and never looked back.
Within 30 minutes the Decision ‘11 Desk declared a Liberal majority government.
However, Ghiz lost two members of his inner circle.
Innovation Minister Allan Campbell, who was front and centre on the Provincial Nominee Program, and Fisheries Minister Neil LeClair both fell to defeat.
Campbell lost District 1, Souris-Elmira, by 30 votes. LeClair lost Tignish-Palmer Road by 33 votes.
Both cabinet ministers represented rural P.E.I. ridings.
Ghiz, who is 37 and Canada's youngest premier, says he never believed his party would sweep every seat in the P.E.I. legislature during this, the Island's first fixed-date election.
"The priority has been to try to win a second mandate," Ghiz said, shortly after arriving at his District 13 headquarters, located in a discount hotel along University Avenue in Charlottetown.
"We knew that there was going to be some challenges along the way. You're never going to get them all. I know some people think that you are but I never really thought that it was in the cards."
With all 319 polls reporting, the Liberal Party took 22 seats with 51.4 per cent of the popular vote. That's down 1.5 per cent from the May 2007 provincial election.
The Progressive Conservative Party took five seats with 40.2 per cent of the popular vote. Conservative support is down 1.2 per cent from the May 2007 provincial election.
PC Leader Olive Crane, who easily cruised to victory in District 7 (Morell-Mermaid) said she respects the decision of P.E.I. voters.
Crane said she looks forward to getting back to the P.E.I. legislature and holding the Ghiz government accountable.
Crane goes back to that legislature with one additional member to her Opposition team.
That team includes Colin LaVie in District 1, Souris-Elmira. He defeated Liberal cabinet minister Allan Campbell.
Steven Myers in District 2, Georgetown-St. Peters. Myers held on to the district, which Mike Currie represented between 1996 and 2011.
James Aylward in District 6, Stratford-Kinlock. Aylward defeated Liberal Cynthia Dunsford.
The only member of Crane's team west of Charlottetown is Hal Perry, who defeated Liberal cabinet minister Neil LeClair, in District 27, Tignish-Palmer Road.
"Today, all across P.E.I., Islanders stood up and made their voices heard and many voted for change," Crane said during a brief stop at her district headquarters in Mount Stewart.
The Green Party placed third again with 4.4 per cent of the popular vote. That's up from 3.0 per cent in 2007.
A personal victory for Green Party Leader Sharon Labchuk. In 2007, Labchuk received six per cent of the vote in District 18, Rustico-Emerald. This time around, Labchuk ran in District 12, Charlottetown-Victoria Park, and received just under 13 per cent of the vote.
NDP support increased from 2.0 per cent in 2007 to 3.2 per cent.
The upstart Island Party received less than one per cent of the popular vote.
Peter McKenna, a UPEI political science professor, said Islanders were not prepared to toss out the Ghiz Liberals. He said Ghiz will be pleased he got that much sought after second mandate but it wasn't all good news for the Liberal premier.
"It's never a good night when you lose two cabinet ministers but at the same time you've got 22 seats and you've just formed a majority government," said McKenna. "Back-to-back majority governments, that's not a bad evening."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement late Monday congratulating Ghiz and his team on their victory.
"I look forward to working with them on promoting economic prosperity and addressing issues of importance to the people of Prince Edward Island and Canada," the prime minister said.
Voter turn out hit an all-time low in Prince Edward Island.
Just under 77 per cent of Islanders cast ballots.
In May 2007 it was nearly 84 per cent while in 2003, with hurricane Juan hitting the province on Election Day, voter turn out was more than 83 per cent.
Ghiz said he had to make some tough decisions over the past four years pointing to the financial recession that plagues governments across North America.
"You're always going to take some knocks along the road and at the end of the day, Islanders chose to return our government to power again and I'm extremely honoured by that."
Ghiz said health care and the economy will be his top priorities going forward into a second-term in office.
"We're in a world-wide turmoil economically, health care is changing dramatically... really over the next four years I have to concentrate on the economy, jobs and health care. That's really what it's going to be about," Ghiz said.
"They are going to be extremely large files over the next four years."
Ghiz's victory Monday builds upon a family dynasty in Island politics that began with his father Joe, who served two terms as the province's premier from 1986 to 1993.
"I'm sure he's looking down tonight and is extremely proud."