Not to take anything away from the Greens, but the losses the other parties suffered, may, in the long run be more important than the Hannah Bell’s victory in the District 11 byelection.
Politics is a team sport and like all team sports having one or two exceptional players isn’t enough if the rest of the team is weak and/or feels left out and ignored.
The fact there was a byelection in the first place calls into question the effectiveness of Wade MacLauchlan as a political leader. When Doug Currie, easily the strongest minister in the government, quit without any satisfactory explanation being offered, it played into the much rumoured allegations that the Premier is a micro-manager and the cabinet are merely bit players.
Mr. MacLauchlan was elected in 2015 with the expectation he would be a transformative premier, that he would be different. Instead he has proven to be a pretty standard run-of-the-mill politician, better than some, but not as good as others. Mr. MacLauchlan hasn’t been able to attract strong candidates, and the few he did weren’t able to get elected. This loss won’t make that task any easier.
However, as bad as the loss was for the Liberals, surprisingly they finished in second place, it was even worse for the Conservatives.
Party leader James Aylward had just been chosen when the byelection was called. One might have expected the excitement and euphoria of the leadership victory to carry over to the byelection campaign. The Tories had a strong candidate in Melissa Hilton, a seasoned veteran of municipal politics in Charlottetown.
Except there wasn’t a lot of excitement surrounding the Tory leadership race? It was a pretty ho-hum affair and when it was over there was little or no euphoria. This is not good for a party that hopes to form the next government.
Mr. Aylward put a lot on the line, personally campaigning in the riding and indicating the Tory win in District 11 would lead to a Conservative government in 2019. The fact that the first part didn’t happen calls into question the viability of the second part.
New Democratic Party has never been much of a factor in the Island politics. Under the leadership of Mike Redmond it has become irrelevant. After the debacle in District 11 Mr. Redmond should step down so the party can choose a new leader and let the rebuilding process begin.
The challenge for the Greens in the next election is to maintain the momentum; to hold the seats they have, and perhaps add one or two more. Peter Bevan-Baker should not be talking about forming a Green government. They should continue to concentrate their efforts on a limited number of ridings. Convince the voters in those ridings there is value in having a strong MLA who can have influence, even if they’re not part of the government. Peter Bevan-Baker’s performance to date has proven that point.
Unless there’s a change, and some dynamic change could easily happen, Islanders going to the polls in 2019 will be faced with the task of choosing between the two traditional parties, each with relatively weak leaders. The chance that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals will get enough seats to form a government would be a first in Island politics, but it is possible in today’s political climate.
If that happened, a few Green MLAs could well determine who will be premier. This is what happened in the recent British Columbia election, the Liberals and NDP were virtually tied, and with three seats the Greens supported the NDP to form the government.
This is not something anyone should be afraid of; a coalition government would be different, but not the end of the world. Peter Bevan-Baker or Hannah Bell would enhance any Island cabinet that might be formed.
Wade MacLauchlan might still prove to be a transformative politician, but not in a way that he, or anyone else, ever imagined.
- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org