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ALAN HOLMAN: Who will ‘bell the cat’?

CRA is one many polls which suggest Liberals are losing iron grip on P.E.I. politics
CRA is one many polls which suggest Liberals are losing iron grip on P.E.I. politics - SaltWire Network

Liberals given to thinking Greens are just a mist that will dissipate when the sun strengthens

BY ALAN HOLMAN

GUARDIAN COLUMNIST

Last year at this time, the CRA poll showed the Liberals favoured by 45 per cent of the people polled, the Conservatives were at 24 per cent, the Greens at 18 and the NDP at 12 per cent.

This week, the latest CRA quarterly poll shows the Liberals have dropped 10 per cent from a year ago; the Conservatives are down 4 and the NDP down 5 per cent.

All 19 per cent (and a bit more) went to the Green Party. With 38 per cent of those polled, the Greens now lead the Liberals who have 35 per cent, the Tories a mere 20 and the NDP with 7 per cent.

There’s the likelihood of a spring election and none of this is exactly good news for the Liberals. But, it’s an unmitigated disaster for the Conservatives. For those Tories who thought they’d soon be forming the next government, this poll is a harsh reality check.

With the Liberals winding up their third term in office it was not unreasonable for Tory die-hards to assume their kick at the can was just over the horizon.

But, the election of Peter Bevan-Baker to the legislature in 2015 has caused some political observers to wonder whether these old assumptions of political fortune still apply.

In the past year the Green Party has steadily grown in popularity, from 18 per cent, to 33 per cent, to 38 per cent while the other parties have either fallen, from 45 to 35, in the case of the Liberals, or stagnated, as in the case of both the Conservatives (stuck in the low 20s) and the NDP (now mired in single digits).

Supporters of these other parties, including (and maybe even especially) the Liberals are wondering, what to do. Oh, what to do.

One thing they should all do, is to stop pretending the Green phenomenon is just a blip, stop telling themselves that when Islanders go to cast a ballot they will come to their senses and forget all this Green nonsense.

There’s a good chance that won’t happen. Not only are the Greens the most popular political party on the Island these days, but, Peter Bevan Baker, leader of the Greens, is by far and away the most popular leader. In poll after poll, he consistently garners just shy of 40 per cent. During the same time the Premier has been stuck in the mid-20s and the Conservative leader in the mid-teens.

Having elected James Aylward as their new leader within the past year there’s not much the Tories can do at this time. Joe Byrne has only recently become NDP leader and he hasn’t had much time to prove his mettle.

Wade MacLauchlan is different. He’s been in the job for three years and the political fortunes of the Liberal party have waned under his leadership. His biggest asset is the fact there is no obvious replacement, especially not in the cabinet nor in the caucus.

But, there are other places to find political leaders. In 1976 as he celebrated his 25th year as a Member of Parliament, Angus MacLean was persuaded to give up his seat as the MP for Malpeque and return to the Island to become the leader of the Island Conservatives, and subsequently premier.

In 1993, another MP for Malpeque, Catherine Callbeck, gave up her seat in Ottawa and returned to lead the Liberals and become premier of the province.

On October 25, Wayne Easter will celebrate 25 years as the MP for Malpeque. There have been rumblings he won’t run again for Parliament. If there was an opening, maybe Mr. Easter could continue the Malpeque tradition.

Liberals are the biggest believers that the Greens aren’t real. They’re given to thinking the Greens are just a mist that will dissipate when the sun strengthens. But, this latest poll should give the Liberals real cause for concern.

Is there a little Liberal mouse who will ‘bell the cat’?

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

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