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Deputy Premier George Webster
Province’s fixed election date a subject of unusual intrigue from Webster, Crane
Maybe there is a rational explanation. And maybe it will be rationally explained when the motion comes up for debate in the P.E.I. legislature. In a week of unexpected political developments, this is another on a list of surprises.
As the usual 9 p.m. adjournment hour approached Tuesday night, Deputy Premier George Webster tabled a motion which asked MLAs to recognize the authority of the lieutenant-governor to dissolve the legislature outside of the province’s fixed election date.
Since the deputy premier tabled the motion, the Liberals are deeply involved in this intrigue. Independent MLA Olive Crane, who later explained she wrote the motion and asked Mr. Webster for his help in getting it tabled, seconded it. So the former leader of the provincial Conservatives is deeply involved.
The motion reads that “current political circumstances in the province” may warrant dissolving the current session. The original fixed election date was next fall but it was moved to April 2016 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper named October 2015 as the date for a federal election.
In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Webster offered a confusing explanation, trying to tie together the need to hear from MLAs on moving the election date forward, to the needs of the Liberal Party to find the best leader in the shortest time period. Those two postulations are somehow supposedly connected to the good government of this province.
Ms. Crane rationalizes that the work of the legislature has been derailed by both major parties. The Liberals are jockeying to see who will run for leader following the stunning resignation announcement from Premier Robert Ghiz last Thursday. The Tories are busy planning for their leadership convention May 30.
Ms. Crane says since the Liberals will likely call a snap election shortly after a new leader is picked in late January or early February, why not get that scenario out in the public domain now so everyone can discuss it?
The new Liberal premier doesn’t need the support of the house for an election call. The so-called fixed election date is really just a general guideline.
Does Ms. Crane think the current business of the legislature will be improved by speculating on election dates? The motion serves to redirect the attention of MLAs to election dates and political conventions instead of the business of the house.
Opposition Leader Steven Myers says this motion is nothing but a game and he’s right. The motion appears designed to rattle some cages or serve as some kind of warning for the Conservatives.
The Liberals will regret any decision to call a snap election once they elect a leader. Such a decision would leave the Conservatives caught in the middle of a leadership campaign, coupled with fighting an election. It would be crass political opportunism.
What went on behind the scenes to result in this unusual alliance between the deputy premier and the independent MLA from Morell-Mermaid? What quid pro quo is in play here? The chances for Ms. Crane to be invited back into the Tory caucus by the new party leader may have been dealt a serious setback.
NDP Leader Mike Redmond suspects something sinister in play and he could be right. It seems that things are going on behind the scenes.
Mr. Myers asks a reasonable question: Why put this in the form of a motion when the premier can easily go to the lieutenant-governor any day he wants and ask for an election? Why bring a needless debate to the floor of the legislature?
Just what does Premier Ghiz have to say about this murky diversion?