P.E.I. Liberals gearing up for the next election

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 23, 2014

Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey addresses a crowd of protesters against his department's plan to realign the TransCanada highway in Churchill.

©Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald

If you believed it was too early to start thinking about the next provincial election — think again.

The Liberal party of P.E.I. held its first nomination convention Wednesday night in District 9 York-Oyster Bed, where Robert Vessey, who is currently transportation minister, ran uncontested.

Over 300 members and the full Liberal caucus were in attendance.

Premier Robert Ghiz said it may seem early to be starting the nomination process, but with pervasive rumours circulating that the federal government may go to the polls earlier than planned, his party wants to be ready for the next campaign.

“If (the feds) go early, we stay on schedule for the fall of 2015, which really isn’t that far away, so we want to start getting ready and organized,” Ghiz said.

Election dates provincially and federally are fixed by way of legislation, yet a certain amount of uncertainty remains about exactly when the next elections will be held.

The federal government’s fixed election date is scheduled less than two weeks after P.E.I.’s date in October of 2015.

The province felt it would be onerous on election volunteers and the public to have two separate major election campaigns underway simultaneously. That’s why government passed legislation this spring to back the provincial election to the spring of the following year if a federal and provincial election overlaps, as they are scheduled to next year.

However, the legislation did include the proviso that if there were no simultaneous federal election, the original fixed election date would be used.

That means if the feds go early, Islanders will be going to the polls in October 2015.

Two more Liberal nomination conventions are planned in the coming weeks for Districts 24 and 5, currently held by Sonny Gallant and Alan McIsaac. More nominations are also planned for the fall.

“It might seem early, but I think it’s important for us as a party to be ready,” said Liberal party president Ewan Clark.

“In this day and age, you really are never out of the spotlight on various issues and campaigning and fundraising for the next election at any time, so it’s an ongoing process.”

Ghiz pointed to the fact Saskatchewan is in the same boat as P.E.I. with its fixed election dates and passed legislation almost identical to P.E.I.’s. It began nominating candidates some time ago, Ghiz said.

“For us, it’s important to get them done and get organized.”

And the Liberals are not the only ones gearing up for the next election.

The provincial NDP is launching an Island-wide ad campaign to try to connect with Islanders.

Party leader Mike Redmond says he has a number of candidates ready to announce.

“The party is debt free and bringing in many donations for a full scale election campaign. Over the next few weeks we want every Islander to know that their input is valued. It is a message we will carry through to the next election.”

The Progressive Conservative party has said it will hold its leadership convention in the fall.