Wade MacLauchlan is not tipping his hand at when he will ask for a provincial election. The deadline for anyone to oppose him for the Liberal leadership expired at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
It’s official — Wade MacLauchlan is now Prince Edward Island’s premier-in-waiting.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, no other candidate entered the race for leadership of the governing Liberal party of P.E.I. This makes MacLauchlan the winner by default and the next premier of P.E.I.
But don’t expect MacLauchlan to start giving speeches or announcing his position on issues just yet.
That’s because the party’s leadership convention is not until Feb. 20-21. Robert Ghiz will continue to act as premier of P.E.I. until shortly after this convention. In the interim, MacLauchlan will be ‘leader-designate.’
He says he plans to spend next month meeting with Islanders, holding roundtable discussions and consulting with residents across the province on the issues that matter to them.
“I think really it’s important to not get ahead of myself,” MacLauchlan said.
“I think it’s best to treat the coming month as a continuation of the process that we’re in, which is about choosing a leader, and then obviously keep thinking about formulating policy. I believe that’s better fully developed and laid out at a later date.”
Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has taken a similar approach in not coming out of the gate with a party platform or policy commitments. The federal leader has endured criticism for this decision over the last year, but has defended it saying he wants to consult with Canadians and experts before developing firm party planks that Canadians will vote on.
MacLauchlan appears to be borrowing this line from his federal leader.
When asked if he would be willing to take positions on topical issues, such as P.E.I.’s abortion policy, MacLauchlan said he wants to take some more time to consult with Islanders before announcing his own position on issues.
“I think it’s best for me to take those questions in their proper time and to continue listening and learning as I move along,” he said.
“It’s a very rich process that I’m engaged in right now and I think, frankly, it sort of spoils that to start saying I’ve got the answers or that I’ve got the position on X,Y or Z.”
MacLauchlan will not say when he might call a provincial election, but once again pointed to the fact both the governing Liberal and Opposition Conservative parties will have new leaders who have not faced the P.E.I. electorate.
He did say he would likely review the notion of fixed election dates, which he says should have been called ‘presumed election dates.’
“Maybe the language could have been better crafted for what actually these laws do, and that is that they are always subject to the parliamentary system, which is that the lieutenant-governor can dissolve the legislature,” he said.
The Liberal party will now begin its own election preparations, with nomination meetings scheduled to begin next week in Montague-Kilmuir.
After he is sworn in as premier, expected to take place shortly after the Feb. 20-21 convention, MacLauchlan’s first order of business will be to appoint a new cabinet. When Ghiz officially resigns, his cabinet will effectively be dissolved.
As for which riding he plans to run in when the election finally is called, MacLauchlan is once again keeping his cards close to his chest.
“I’m sticking to my response to that, which is that I’m running, between now and the convention, for all of Prince Edward Island.”
Wade MacLauchlan says he wants to wait and consult with Islanders before he announces his stance on issues. But in an interview with The Guardian he did offer a few opinions:
ON BEING THE SOLE CANDIDATE:
As a proud and passionate Prince Edward Islander, it means a lot to be another step along the trail to become premier.
It’s nice to have that kind of support.
ON ELECTION TIMING:
I think about it a lot, but there’s nothing firm at this point… we will soon have a number of new people on the scene and that Prince Edward Islanders may in fact want a chance to give a government a mandate. But that’s about as far as my thinking has gone at this stage.
ON FIXED ELECTION DATES:
I think we probably should have called them presumed election dates. I actually think there are some points that may warrant some reflection once we get on into a mandate, if we get one. I don’t have a firm position on that at the moment.
ON PRIORITIES GOING FORWARD:
We have to work together in growing our economy.
We have to focus on where we’re doing well. Work with those sectors, work with those industries and frankly, with where the dollar is sitting at pretty close to 80 cents (US), I think there are some tremendous opportunities to enhance our trade and increase our sales outside the province.
ON APPOINTING A NEW CABINET:
I’m a long way from having a view and I’m certainly a long way from declaring exactly how that might come out. I see the entire caucus as being the team I’m working with and that’s really essential to how I want to approach a government as well.
ON SOON BECOMING FIRST OPENLY GAY PREMIER OF P.E.I.:
I actually have not encountered anybody who is treating that as an issue. This has quite squarely not been an issue.
I’ve been in leadership roles for 12 years at the university, and I didn’t encounter it there or in the province at the time. I think people take us for who we are and they’ve got much bigger things that they’re concerned about.