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ALAN HOLMAN: To vote, or not to vote?

Elections P.E.I. ballot box
Elections P.E.I. ballot box - Elections P.E.I.

Rumours persist for fall vote in spite of legislation that sets election for fall of 2019

BY ALAN HOLMAN

THE GUARDIAN

There are murmurings that the provincial government will call an early election this fall. This rumour persists in spite of legislation that sets an election date for the fall of 2019.

Since a federal election is also scheduled for that time, it’s believed the provincial election will either be held in the spring of 2019, or put off until the spring,2020.

The recent speculation of an early call is fuelled by the fact that in many districts, where there have been changes to the boundaries, the Liberals are holding founding meetings. But, these are simply organizing meetings, not nominating meetings choosing candidates for the next election.

Peter Bevan-Baker, the leader of the Green Party, is not waiting, he’s actively looking for candidates. And so he should. In many ridings once selected, it will be the Green candidates themselves who have to find the people and put together an organization to run their campaigns. These things take time.

Though not as strong as they once were, the Liberals and Conservatives already have identified supporters and organizations in place which can quickly ramp up for an election, whenever it’s called.

For decades there’s been an ebb and flow to Island politics. The Liberals are in power for a period, a decade or so, then the tide turns, Tory fortunes rise and they get their kick at the can.

Many Conservatives think the political situation today is similar to the mid-1990s. Back then, the Liberals had been in power for two terms when Catherine Callbeck easily succeeded Joe Ghiz, and the Liberals were elected to a third term. But, Premier Callbeck soon fell out of favour and stepped down. The Conservatives, under Pat Binns, won the 1996 election and again in both 2000 and 2003.

The Conservatives’ rare three-term run lasted until they were defeated by Robert Ghiz, son of Joe, in 2007 and 2011. Like his father, Ghiz-the-younger, stepped down before the end of his second-term. He was succeeded by Wade MacLauchlan.

Like Ms. Callbeck, Mr. MacLauchlan easily won the 2015 election. And like Ms. Callbeck, he came to power on a wave of hope and expectation. But, his aura soon faded, and there’s now a sense that Liberal fortunes are on the wane.

This, of course, gives great hope to the Tories. They should be cautious, this is 2018, not 1996. There are many differences, but, two stand out. Collectively, Islanders have never been so prosperous, and, never have Islanders been so disillusioned with the political process. The two are not entirely disconnected.

Their prosperity has given Islanders a sense of confidence. Islanders are not locked into the traditions of the past. They are open to new ideas, they are trying new things. The number of new ethnic restaurants serving exotic food is just one example. The relative success of the Green Party is another.

The Conservatives are counting on the see-saw tradition of Island politics to put them in office. For their part, the Liberals like to think that when it comes time to cast their ballots, Islanders will set aside their disillusionment and credit them for the prosperity they’re enjoying.

However, there’s a breeze blowing on the Island’s body politic. Will the winds of change waft gently, or will they get stronger, and perhaps become a gale? What will be left when the storm blows through?

After the next election, when the ballots are all counted, there is a good chance Islanders will see a legislature unlike any they’ve ever experienced, with some Green and NDP members.

Don’t rule out the possibility of a minority government. And, on election day, they will also vote in a referendum on whether to adopt a new electoral system or stay with the status quo. Islanders could have a new government and a new way to elect one.

The only political certainty is we live in interesting times. It will be an exciting election, whenever it happens to be.

- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: acholman@pei.eastlink.ca

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