An early election serves everyone, suggest Liberals

MacLauchlan turns tables on critics

Published on January 12, 2015

Wade MacLauchlan puts on a new red jacket after the announcementof his P.E.I Liberal leadership bid as Robert Vessey, left, his campaign co-chairman looks on.

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

The Liberal leadership convention isn’t until Feb. 20-21 and already the demands being placed on candidate Wade MacLauchlan are onerous indeed. They include: publish an independent audit of P.E.I. 2014 spending well in advance of a provincial election; commit to a PNP public inquiry; commit to following fixed-date election legislation; and commit to an April budget and June election. Etc. etc.

Granted, the odds are good that Mr. MacLauchlan will win the leadership of the provincial Liberal party and then be sworn in as premier shortly afterwards.

But today, he is Wade MacLauchlan, private citizen. The Liberal nomination deadline is Jan. 20 and who knows what might happen between now and Feb. 21. Until that time, does anyone seriously expect he should be making major government decisions? It would be foolhardy to start acting like a premier until it’s legally and constitutionally proper to do so. Robert Ghiz is still the elected premier of this province.

The politically astute course for Mr. MacLauchlan is to wait and that is what he is doing. To start making bold pronouncements now, he will appear overconfident, arrogant and taking things for granted.

Mr. MacLauchlan is trying to turn the tables on critics about the likelihood of Islanders going to the polls in April. They see an early call as blatantly opportunistic, and best suited to the fortunes of the Liberal party only.

When he was asked about widely circulating early election plans, and if he would adhere to fixed-date legislation, Mr. MacLauchlan parried those questions, saying his top priority is running for the leadership and he isn’t looking much farther ahead than that.

It’s going to be a well-rehearsed mantra that an early call is not just for the benefit of the Liberals but for all parties. Mr. MacLauchlan argues — with some logic — that come March 1, there is a chance that no leader of P.E.I.’s political parties will have a seat in the provincial legislature.

He argues that Islanders should pass their own judgment on new leaders and an unelected premier, before any major policy and legislative decisions are made. It’s a strong argument.

If Mr. MacLauchlan wins the leadership and becomes premier, and should Rob Lantz become PC leader, they would join NDP Leader Mike Redmond and Green leader Peter Bevan-Baker watching proceedings from outside the rail if the spring sitting of the House should proceed and an election is delayed.

Mr. MacLauchlan suggests it would be in the best interests of everyone to give all leaders the opportunity to win a seat or form a government at the earliest opportunity.

Of the demands being presented in recent days, a request for an audit of P.E.I. 2014 seems premature since its final event took place less than two weeks ago. But one suggestion does make sense. Since it appears a spring vote will be held before a budget is presented, Islanders should see fiscal statements or have a good idea of our most up-to-date financial situation before an election.

If, as Finance Minister Wes Sheridan suggests, he is on course to balancing the budget this spring, then he shouldn’t have any issues with providing those statements. In fact, he should welcome the opportunity.

At the very least, the auditor general should be given every resource to present as accurate a fiscal update as possible before election day.

The reason why the last election was delayed from the spring to the fall in 2011 was so the auditor general could provide Islanders with audited statements. Voters need to see the books before the April vote.

The blue books being presented in the next several weeks will provide some idea about our finances but they will be insufficient by April.

A fiscal statement before an election shouldn’t depend upon the consent of Mr. MacLauchlan or the government. A prior, firm commitment was made to provide them and must be fulfilled.