Top News

Ghiz’s bombshell resignation chosen 2014 News Story of the Year

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz announces he's resigning at Province House lecture theatre Nov. 13, 2014.
P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz announces he's resigning at Province House lecture theatre Nov. 13, 2014.

None

It was a political bombshell that shocked Prince Edward Island, and indeed much of the country.

Premier Robert Ghiz’s sudden announcement he will resign a year before the next scheduled election, and at a time both he and his Liberal party maintain a massive lead in the polls — it was a revelation that surprised virtually everyone and has set in motion a whole new path for the next year of politics in Prince Edward Island.

That’s why it has been chosen by The Guardian editorial department to be P.E.I.’s News Story of the Year for 2014.

PAST STORIES OF THE YEAR

“Robert Ghiz’s announcement in mid-November not only shocked the province that day, it will continue to reverberate in the months ahead,” says Guardian managing editor Gary MacDougall.

“As a result of it, the province will soon have a new premier, the PCs will have a new leader, and a spring election is in the works.

“The year 2014 had other major, and sometimes tragic, stories, including the fatal fire that killed three teens, the shocking double homicide in eastern P.E.I. and the fact someone vandalized shipments of potatoes by putting sewing needles in them. The fallout from the Ghiz announcement will play a big role in shaping the province’s future.”

The timing of his resignation speech is arguably one of the most surprising factors.

Delivered just one day after his speech from the throne and just one hour before the first question period of the fall session of the legislature, Ghiz’s announcement came as a shock not only to the public, but also to his closest caucus colleagues. Cabinet ministers and Liberal MLAs were told only 15 minutes before he appeared before the media to deliver his speech.

It ended up derailing the legislative agenda, with only eight of the 25 pieces of legislation tabled by government actually passing, leaving the remaining 17 bills to languish on the order paper.

It also sparked a debate about a snap election call that could likely be called in the spring and some initial jockeying among cabinet members about who might run for the leadership.

Ghiz’s resignation in the prime of his political career not only has surprised Islanders, it has reset the political landscape in P.E.I., says UPEI political science professor Peter McKenna.

“It has completely shaken up the political party system in the sense that all the parties, including the Green party, the NDP and the Progressive Conservative party, have had to readjust their thinking and their planning and their organization,” McKenna said.

Indeed, the PC party had originally set its leadership convention date for May 2015, but had to move the date forward after the Liberals warned a spring election is likely after Ghiz’s successor takes over.

“It’s had a profound impact in terms of the party system,” McKenna said of Ghiz’s resignation.

“Whether or not it’s going to turn into a change in terms of the government, that still remains to be seen.”

The Liberal party will hold a leadership convention in mid-February, which many have said will likely be a coronation of the only officially declared candidate so far, former UPEI president Wade MacLauchlan. As for Ghiz, the question left for many is — why? Given his youth, his political vigour, the fact he built a reputation on the national political stage — why resign now? In response, Ghiz has said he simply wants to take some time off and spend time with his family.

“As a political scientist, I’m puzzled by a leader who would step aside knowing full well that, barring a bolt from the blue, he probably was going to be re-elected as premier,” McKenna said.

“It sort of indicates to me that he is not a professional politician. Because a professional politician would have stayed on for as long as they can stay on.”

It was a political bombshell that shocked Prince Edward Island, and indeed much of the country.

Premier Robert Ghiz’s sudden announcement he will resign a year before the next scheduled election, and at a time both he and his Liberal party maintain a massive lead in the polls — it was a revelation that surprised virtually everyone and has set in motion a whole new path for the next year of politics in Prince Edward Island.

That’s why it has been chosen by The Guardian editorial department to be P.E.I.’s News Story of the Year for 2014.

PAST STORIES OF THE YEAR

“Robert Ghiz’s announcement in mid-November not only shocked the province that day, it will continue to reverberate in the months ahead,” says Guardian managing editor Gary MacDougall.

“As a result of it, the province will soon have a new premier, the PCs will have a new leader, and a spring election is in the works.

“The year 2014 had other major, and sometimes tragic, stories, including the fatal fire that killed three teens, the shocking double homicide in eastern P.E.I. and the fact someone vandalized shipments of potatoes by putting sewing needles in them. The fallout from the Ghiz announcement will play a big role in shaping the province’s future.”

The timing of his resignation speech is arguably one of the most surprising factors.

Delivered just one day after his speech from the throne and just one hour before the first question period of the fall session of the legislature, Ghiz’s announcement came as a shock not only to the public, but also to his closest caucus colleagues. Cabinet ministers and Liberal MLAs were told only 15 minutes before he appeared before the media to deliver his speech.

It ended up derailing the legislative agenda, with only eight of the 25 pieces of legislation tabled by government actually passing, leaving the remaining 17 bills to languish on the order paper.

It also sparked a debate about a snap election call that could likely be called in the spring and some initial jockeying among cabinet members about who might run for the leadership.

Ghiz’s resignation in the prime of his political career not only has surprised Islanders, it has reset the political landscape in P.E.I., says UPEI political science professor Peter McKenna.

“It has completely shaken up the political party system in the sense that all the parties, including the Green party, the NDP and the Progressive Conservative party, have had to readjust their thinking and their planning and their organization,” McKenna said.

Indeed, the PC party had originally set its leadership convention date for May 2015, but had to move the date forward after the Liberals warned a spring election is likely after Ghiz’s successor takes over.

“It’s had a profound impact in terms of the party system,” McKenna said of Ghiz’s resignation.

“Whether or not it’s going to turn into a change in terms of the government, that still remains to be seen.”

The Liberal party will hold a leadership convention in mid-February, which many have said will likely be a coronation of the only officially declared candidate so far, former UPEI president Wade MacLauchlan. As for Ghiz, the question left for many is — why? Given his youth, his political vigour, the fact he built a reputation on the national political stage — why resign now? In response, Ghiz has said he simply wants to take some time off and spend time with his family.

“As a political scientist, I’m puzzled by a leader who would step aside knowing full well that, barring a bolt from the blue, he probably was going to be re-elected as premier,” McKenna said.

“It sort of indicates to me that he is not a professional politician. Because a professional politician would have stayed on for as long as they can stay on.”

Past stories of the year

• 1993: Catherine Callbeck*

• 1994: 7 1/2 per cent public sector wage rollback*

• 1995: Bombing of P.E.I. legislature*

• 1996: Raising of Irving Whale oil barge

• 1997: Opening of Confederation Bridge

• 1998: David (Eli) MacEachern winning Olympic gold medal

• 1999: Tracadie Cross hearse accident

• 2000: Prime Minister gets pie in face

• 2001: Sept. 11 and its impact on Prince Edward Island

• 2002: Lawrence MacAulay resignation from federal cabinet

• 2003: Hurricane Juan

• 2004: Collapse of fishery processor Polar Foods

• 2005: Gas price shocker

• 2006: Islanders head West

• 2007: Crisis in agriculture

• 2008: Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) controversy

• 2009: Upheaval in education

• 2010: Visit to P.E.I. by Live! With Regis and Kelly

• 2011: Shooting deaths in Alberta

• 2012: Tory turmoil (a year of controversy for Olive Crane and P.E.I. PC Party)

• 2013: Murder/suicide of Trish Hennessey and her son Nash

• 2014: Robert Ghiz surprise resignation.

* Editor’s note: For the years 1993, 1994 and 1995, The Guardian only selected a Newsmaker of the Year. In 1996, to comply with The Canadian Press selection method, The Guardian began selecting both a Newsmaker of the Year (usually a person) and a News Story of the Year (usually an event or series of events).

Recent Stories