CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Hannah Bell will become the new MLA for District 11 Charlottetown-Parkdale, handing the Green party its second historic electoral victory in Prince Edward Island.
Bell and her team of enthusiastic supporters were elated by the win, which was announced after a long evening of slow-moving results from Elections P.E.I.
“We asked the voters in District 11 to be brave. We asked them to believe that real change was possible, and today, they were brave and they showed up and they voted for change,” Bell said, addressing her supporters for the first time as MLA-elect Monday evening.
“Now I get to go and be brave every day on behalf of the district constituents who voted for me to be their voice.”
It was a nail-biting evening for parties, supporters and political watchers in P.E.I.
The advance poll was the first to report results, showing a tight three-way race between Bell, Progressive Conservative candidate Melissa Hilton and Liberal candidate Bob Doiron.
After that, results coming from both Elections P.E.I. and unofficial numbers from party volunteers slowed to a virtual crawl. The Elections P.E.I. website froze regularly through the evening due to overloaded traffic, with so many people refreshing their screens for results.
At the Liberal party headquarters, the mood was tense throughout the evening, with the room going silent every time a phone rang as volunteers and MLAs awaited results.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan circled the room, trying to make small talk and joke with party supporters to help lift spirits.
The PC party headquarters was similarly sombre.
Meanwhile, at Bar 1911, Green supporters became more and more celebratory and the crowd grew larger as the evening progressed and Bell emerged the winner of poll after poll.
In the end, she won with 768 votes, which was 35.4 per cent of the vote, winning all but two of the 11 polls in the district.
Bell credits her success to the party’s grassroots campaign, which included higher than projected donations and a large team of volunteers, including some help from the federal Green party.
“Something the voters have said over and over again is they’re tired of same-old, same-old politics, so really I think that’s the message, the strongest one, from this election result,” Bell said.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker was unabashed in his joy over Bell’s victory and what it means for his party.
“I think we just shook P.E.I. politics to its core,” he said.
Getting himself elected in 2015 was “all very well,” Bevan-Baker said. But the real test was ensuring that victory was not a curiosity or a one-time event.
“That meant nothing unless we could build on that and make the Green party a credible contender across Prince Edward Island, and tonight we showed them we can do that.”
Premier Wade MacLauchlan dismissed the suggestion the result was a negative reaction to the performance of his Liberal government, saying his party went into the vote “knowing it was a tight race.”
“It’s a byelection. When you’re the government you can go back over time and these things are always a challenge,” he said. “We went at it and worked hard and had a good candidate in Bob and the voters spoke and as I say that’s the beauty of democracy.”
Total voter turnout for the byelection, which included three advance polling days, was just over 60 per cent of the 3,548 eligible voters in the district.