© Guardian photo
New Island Party leader Billy Cann, here with a copy of the party's platform, is looking to build support after he was chosen to lead the party into the October election.
P.E.I. has its fifth political party leader after the Island Party picked its new leader Monday morning.
Former Montague-Kilmuir Liberal candidate Billy Cann will lead P.E.I.’s newest party into the next election, filling a void left by interim leader Jay Gallant who stepped down in September.
Cann is now tasked with building a party that has been polling at zero per cent with a fall election drawing closer and the reigning Liberals showing a strong lead over the other parties.
While he will be changing political stripes after running as a Liberal in the 2007 election, Cann said he is disappointed in what the Premier Robert Ghiz government has done since it came into power.
“For me when I ran for the Liberals I expected more from them and I’m not seeing that since the election,” he said.
When the Island Party formed last year it needed a leader in order to register as an official party, but Gallant never intended to stay on long-term and stepped down in September.
Cann, who lives in Gaspereaux, has run his own construction business on and off for 20 years and ran as a Liberal in the last election against Montague-Kilmuir MLA Jim Bagnall.
He lost by 134 votes.
Party spokesman Paul Smitz said the party’s core members chose Cann by acclamation, although both men agreed it was not the ideal way to pick a leader.
“It would have been nice to have an open thing, but time is so short and Billy is a good candidate, a known candidate,” he said.
Cann said with close to six months left before the election the party had to do something about its vacant leadership.
“That spearheaded the decision more than anything,” he said.
As of Monday the Island Party had eight people who have committed to run, but the party hopes to have a full slate on election day, he said.
“Hopefully the fact that we have a leader now will help in having people come onside.”
Cann said the Island Party is mainly a grassroots rural party with regionalization as one of the big issues for in the upcoming election and he wants to know what Ghiz’s plans are for regionalization in P.E.I.
“They haven’t answered that. They’ve kind of avoided the question,” he said.
Health care and education have dominated political discussions in the past and while they are important issues, they have taken away from working to strengthen P.E.I.’s economy, Cann said.
“Health care and education are very important. They are probably the most important things is your health, but if you don’t have a strong economy you can’t pay for all those things that are necessary to have good health in the province.”
The Island Party will also focus on energy concerns and open up the government to make information more accessible to the public.
Cann said the Island Party has people out recruiting to increase its membership but the party won’t have as much money to spend on a campaign as the Liberals or Conservatives which means it will rely more on social media and the Internet to try and win over voters.
“Hopefully people will jump on side and show their support,” he said.
With about 45 per cent of voters undecided in the latest poll, Cann said there is the potential for the Island Party to gain support from those undecided voters.
“The next poll if we get eight to 10 per cent we’re on our way.”