P.E.I. government to debate an early election

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on November 18, 2014
Agriculture Minister George Webster walks to Province House Wednesday where he answered questions about his department's cuts to funding for the Atlantic Veterinary College.
Guardian photo

The governing Liberals in P.E.I. may be looking to call an early election.

Deputy premier George Webster tabled a motion late Tuesday evening asking all MLAs to accept and recognize the authority of the lieutenant governor to dissolve the legislature outside of the province’s fixed election date.

This move comes on the heels of the surprise announcement last week that Premier Robert Ghiz will resign early in the new year.

Webster tabled the motion at 8:57 p.m. - just minutes before the evening session of the legislature closed for the day Tuesday.

The Guardian was unable to reach him for comment.

The motion itself reasons that “current political circumstances in the province” may warrant dissolving the current assembly to allow a new new one to be elected outside the fixed election date.

It points to the fact both the governing and Opposition parties are in the midst of selecting new leaders.

The motion further notes the federal government “has set a precedent by calling an election, in the past, outside the fixed election period.”

Independent MLA Olive Crane seconded the motion.

With Ghiz’s resignation and leadership conventions for both the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives coming in the new year, Crane said she feels real issues are being ignored.

“All attention is on posturing rather than debating the real issues impacting everyday Islanders, like the 77-year-old who cannot afford oxygen,” Crane said.

“Everyone knows there is an election around the corner.”

As for an election, Crane says, “bring it on.”

“Let Islanders decide, based upon policies, who they want.”

But Opposition Leader Steven Myers says he believes this motion is nothing but a game and was highly critical of it, especially how it tabled late at night when it was likely to fly under the radar.

“They’re more interested in playing games than in doing the work of the people or doing the work that they were elected to do,” Myers said.

“We’re asking questions on really serious issues, issues that affect Islanders and we’re trying to get answers… I’m not into playing these games, Islanders aren’t into playing these games.”

He believes this motion is a tactic to get Islanders talking about what would happen if an early election were called to distract them from possible controversies that may be stewing.

“Why put this in the form of a motion? The premier can go to the lieutenant governor any day he wants and ask for an election. Why bring it to debate on the floor of the legislature? To play a game, nothing more,” Myers said.

An early election could be problematic for the Opposition Tories, who are not scheduled to elect a permanent leader until May 30, 2015.

But Myers noted the Liberals have not yet announced their convention date, adding he is "not too worried" about an early election. He called on government to stick to more serious business, like tabling the capital budget.

The Election Act sets the next provincial election in October 2015, but if this coincides with a federal election – which it is scheduled to do – it would be pushed back to April 2016.

Despite these fixed dates, the act does include a provision giving the lieutenant governor the power to dissolve the legislative assembly “when the lieutenant governor sees fit.”