With so much at stake for each party, the byelection in Charlottetown-Parkdale seems more about avoiding stumbles and playing it safe, than engaging in debate and discussing hard issues. It’s been a campaign fought largely on the doorstep.
The race to replace popular cabinet minister Doug Currie attracted four star candidates. The results Monday should prove very interesting.
Liberal newcomer Bob Doiron had to defend government policy, especially the rejection of the proportional representation victory in last fall’s plebiscite. He was outspoken as a member of Charlottetown city council, took populist positions against fees for services and was increasingly critical of CAO Peter Kelly. His election would boost Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s government and recognize successes with the economy, finances, jobs and increasing population.
Government tweets and ads, which broke embargoes on the capital budget, proved embarrassing and drew a scolding from Speaker Buck Watts. Doiron’s Supreme Court action against the Workers’ Compensation Board over a workplace injury issue may come into play.
Tory candidate Melissa Hilton is touting her experience on city council, especially chairing the finance committee, but she was on the hiring committee, which selected CAO Kelly. Hilton stumbled before she was even selected when party signs went up early, drawing a reprimand from Elections P.E.I. And she reacted defensively when challenged on the city’s lack of social and low-income housing on her watch.
Hilton offers voters the opportunity of electing an MLA for a perceived government-in-waiting – allowing her to gain experience before the next provincial election. The PCs must be considered favourites to win in 2019 when the Liberals will seek a rarely granted 4th straight term.
Hannah Bell won the first contested nomination in P.E.I. Green party history and her biggest asset might be Peter Bevan-Baker who has consistently polled as the most poplar party leader on P.E.I. since his 2015 election.
Bell’s inexperience in public office might hurt although she has been the executive director of the P.E.I. Business Women’s Association since 2012. Bell didn’t expect criticism on Green party connections with private schools, or questions on its support for P.E.I.’s public education system.
The Greens have been effective in taking the government to task over the PR issue, hoping voters will send a message Monday. District 11 saw 1,022 total votes cast for the winning Mixed Member Proportional option.
Mike Redmond was the most effective campaigner in the byelection, usually putting the other candidates on the defensive. He championed social issues and grabbed a well-deserved share of the spotlight on the PR debate.
He has taken some unusual positions in the past, none more remarkable than supporting the Hells Angels. But he has kept on message and focused on the issues. He might benefit from a wish by voters to have the NDP leader in the legislature, just to see what he can do.
Redmond is anxious to confirm the NDP as the third party of choice on P.E.I. The NDP has lots of active party workers this election, with an unsurpassed letter writing campaign.
Stay tuned Monday night.