With just over three weeks to go before the legislature opens, with a new Throne Speech, and a new Lieutenant Governor to read it, a senior cabinet packs it in. Quits.
Doug Currie didn’t just quit the cabinet, he also resigned as the MLA for Charlottetown-Parkdale.
Mr. Currie says he wants to get on with the next stage of his life. He wants, indeed needs, a new job, but he has given no indication that he has one lined up.
Mr. Currie has served in a number of portfolios, justice, health, education and others. In addition to his cabinet experience he has been a school principal, teacher and a coach. He believes that at 57 years of age he still has a lot to offer, but it was difficult to go looking for a new job while he was still sitting in the cabinet.
There have been rumours that Mr. Currie has wanted out of government for some time, that he has been bored and unhappy in his position as the education minister, a portfolio he has held before. He’s been quoted as saying, “I want another opportunity. I’m really motivated and excited to do something different.”
While it might be a good time for Mr. Currie to personally take his leave, his departure doesn’t seem to be the best timing for the government. For the short term, Alan McIssac, the minister of agriculture and fisheries will take on the education portfolio. With only a few weeks before the Legislature sits, there’s likely not enough time to fully prepare a neophyte cabinet minister to handle questions from a hostile opposition.
It will be interesting to see if Premier MacLauchlan simply replaces Mr. Currie, or uses his departure for a major cabinet shake up after the Legislature rises. His government is at the halfway point of its mandate. Other governments have revamped themselves at this point, but those were governments with the luxury of a stronger backbench than Mr. MacLauchlan has.
By resigning his seat, as well as his cabinet post, Mr. Currie also puts the Premier in the unenviable position of having to face a bye-election at a time when the Conservatives are feeling very feisty, after having just named a new leader.
Premier MacLauchlan has six months before he needs to call a byelection and he may want to take his time to find a strong candidate. District 11 was handily won in 2015 with Doug Currie getting nearly 44 per cent of the vote. The Conservatives were a distant second with 26 per cent, the Greens came third with 19 per cent and the NDP at 11 per cent. It is interesting, that while the Tories got 699 votes to the Greens 511, neither the Conservatives nor the NDP won a poll, while the Greens won three.
The District 11 byelection will have serious ramifications for the Greens, the Conservatives and the Liberals.
The Conservatives think this is a tired, third-term government and they’re certain they have the wind at their back. A loss would be a serious set-back to their perceived momentum and hamper their ability to attract good candidates.
A loss wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Liberals, but it would re-enforce the notion that they are well past their best-before-date. But, a win would make it easier for Wade MacLauchlan to attract strong candidates who can win in the 2019 election. He’ll likely have a number of resignations among his caucus and finding the right replacements is critical if he wants to remain Premier.
District 11 will also be important for the Greens. Can the popularity of their leader, Peter Bevan-Baker, translate into votes outside his own district? The old-line parties believe Mr. Bevan-Baker only won because he faced an unpopular cabinet minister and a weak Conservative. Another win by the Greens would scare the life out of them, remind them of British Columbia where the Greens won the balance of power.
- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org