Kennedy’s withdrawal unfortunate

Party would benefit from leadership race, chance to debate issues, involve members

Published on January 19, 2015

Keith Kennedy, here at Liberal headquarters in Charlottetown, says he plans to run for the party's leadership.

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

It comes as no surprise that Keith Kennedy is abandoning his run to become leader of the Liberal Party of P.E.I. and premier. His decision last Thursday virtually guarantees that Wade MacLauchlan will be acclaimed leader and the Island’s 32nd premier at the party’s convention weekend Feb. 20-21. The deadline to nominate for leader is tomorrow, Jan. 20 and it would be impossible for anyone to mobilize support at this late date to challenge Mr. MacLauchlan who has the entire Liberal caucus, insiders and hierarchy behind him. He also has the tacit support of Premier Robert Ghiz, the open support of the three Island Liberal MPs and of former premier Alex Campbell, a Liberal legend and the subject of a biography published last year by Mr. MacLauchlan.

Mr. Kennedy was certainly facing monumental odds. He was never made to feel warm and cozy in the bosom of the provincial Liberal Party and the frustrations he encountered trying to meet nomination criteria just became too much. He planned to visit each of the 27 ridings to gather the names necessary in support of his leadership bid but ran into problems obtaining forms and getting Liberals to sign them.

Those problems were understandable in some ways. If an MLA or party member had already signed nomination papers for Mr. MacLauchlan, or intend to vote for him at the convention, why would they sign someone else’s forms?

Fortunately for the party, it won’t have to deal with the sensitive issue of having to officially ‘green-light’ Mr. Kennedy’s leadership bid, had he been able to meet all the criteria. His party loyalty was newly-minted since he didn’t buy a membership until Nov. 21, shortly after Premier Ghiz announced his plans to resign once a new leader is selected. Mr. Kennedy officially announced his intentions to run in early December and spent six weeks in the race, most of it consumed with trying to get names and raise money. The $2,500 non-refundable fee to enter the race was seen as a major roadblock.

The Liberals had to tread carefully, lest they be accused of trying to stifle challengers, especially those with political beliefs mostly contrary to the government. But a leadership race would have been a healthy experience for the party, and a chance to debate policy and get members involved.

Mr. Kennedy was gracious following his decision, saying he was glad of the opportunity to run and appreciated hearing a good cross-section of issues and concerns from Islanders.

Target departure a big blow

The pending departure of the Target Canada store from the Charlottetown Mall is bad news, especially for the scores of local employees. The P.E.I. store opened in November 2013 and expected to hire upwards of 150 employees. The opening was greeted with lots of local optimism but it didn’t take long before grumblings began to surface about items not in stock, empty shelves and higher than expected prices.

The impact will be felt throughout the shopping mall as other retailers could suffer from a loss of business with its anchor tenant about to leave. The store will take several months to wind down operations but how do you find a similar retailer to fill that large space? The only good news is the workers will get 16 weeks severance pay that will give them some time to look for other work.

The Target brand image was harmed beyond repair in Canada so the company decided to end a very expensive experiment, billions of lost dollars later. There is something that Canadian consumers can be thankful for — Target is credited with lower food prices at Walmart, Loblaws and Sobeys.