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UPDATE: Joe Byrne announces bid for P.E.I. NDP leadership

Charlottetown's Joe Byrne holds press conference in Charlottetown Thursday morning to announce his bid for the provincial NDP leadership.
Charlottetown's Joe Byrne holds press conference in Charlottetown Thursday morning to announce his bid for the provincial NDP leadership. - Dave Stewart

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Access to services in rural P.E.I., food security, poverty and affordable housing are issues at the top of Joe Byrne’s list.

Byrne officially announced his candidacy Thursday for the leadership of the provincial NDP.

The P.E.I. NDP will hold a leadership convention on Saturday, April 7 after current leader Mike Redmond resigned the position a month ago.

“Access to services is the consistent issue we hear from rural Islanders,’’ Byrne said following a news conference.

Byrne is a veteran of the political race, having run for the federal Charlottetown seat in the previous two elections.

“The distances to travel for health care, the fear that the next round of cuts to our rural infrastructure are just around the corner . . . food security across the Island, levels of poverty. We’re asking our friends and neighbours to live a lack of livable or sustainable quality housing that is just not acceptable anymore.’’

Fast facts
1. Joe Byrne became the first candidate to declare that he is seeking the NDP leadership
2. A search committee consisting of Marian White, Thomas Burleigh and Dr. Herb Dickieson was formed to screen candidates
3. Current leader Mike Redmond resigned in December
4. Candidates must have paperwork in with 25 signatures and $100 fee paid 20 days prior to convention
5. Convention will be held Saturday, April 7

If Byrne is successful on April 7 he will face the formidable task of turning the party’s poor poll numbers around. The P.E.I. NDP is currently in last place in the polls among the four parties.

Related: Mike Redmond resigns as P.E.I. NDP leader

The Guardian asked Byrne what ideas he had to turn the NDP’s fortune’s around.

“Well, there’s no sort of magic mysticism to this. This is about ideas and meeting people so I’ll be going across the province and I’ll be listening to people’s experience and insights and how we can do better and how that gets incorporated into our party message. As a spokesperson for the party, if I can get elected as leader it’ll be my challenge and responsibility that that message gets communicated to the rest of P.E.I. Polls will go up and down, we’ll go up and down. I’ve been involved in politics for a while. I’m not intimidated by that challenge.’’

Byrne is the first candidate to declare for the leadership.

Party president Leah-Jane Hayward said the party has already met with one other candidate who is seriously considering running and hinted that a third candidate is also interested.

Any candidate must have their paperwork in – 25 signatures and $100 fee – 20 days prior to the April 7 convention. Any female candidates would have access to $1,000 for campaign expenses courtesy of the Hilda Ramsay Fund. In 1951, Ramsay became the first woman to campaign for a seat in the provincial legislature, offering as a candidate for the CCF Party in Third Prince.

Byrne said regardless of whether he’s elected leader or not, he will be running as a candidate in the next provincial election in District 12, Charlottetown-Victoria Park.

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