Former Provincial Liberal Doug Currie will be the Conservative candidate in Charlottetown in the next election.
Currie was a Liberal member of the legislative assembly during the Robert Ghiz and Wade MacLauchlan governments, serving in cabinet in a number of roles, including as minister of health, minister of education and attorney general. He stepped down from provincial politics in 2017 and has worked as the vice-president of corporate services with Holland College since 2019.
In a media statement, federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole welcomed Currie’s candidacy.
“I’m proud to be welcoming Doug to our Conservative team as someone with cabinet experience in the health portfolio,” O’Toole said in the statement.
Currie was acclaimed after having submitted an application for candidacy to the federal party.
Despite the switch between parties, Currie says he has no philosophical differences with the federal Liberals.
"I ran for a certain party, but when I was elected. I didn't carry a partisan flag. I worked on behalf of all my constituents and, obviously, in my ministerial roles I worked for Islanders," Currie said.
"For me it's more about being a voice. We're going to need a skilled, experienced, strong voice and an effective voice in Ottawa."
Currie acknowledged that Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is not well-known to Islanders.
O’Toole won the leadership of the federal party last year, beating former Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay, with a campaign highlighting his “true blue” conservativism. O’Toole’s leadership victory was due in no small part to support he received on the third ballot from Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis, two socially conservative candidates who identified as pro-life.
But when asked about the Conservative leader, Currie argued O’Toole has progressive credentials.
"From the day he took the leadership, he came out very, very clearly and very aggressively on socially progressive issues that are really, really important to me,” Currie said.
“Obviously pro-choice, same-sex marriage. He's been very clear that his party will be a modern and inclusive party."
When asked whether he would support a Liberal bill aimed at criminalizing conversion therapy, Currie said it was too early for him to say.
“I just got acclaimed this morning as of 10 o'clock. I would certainly welcome more discussions like this as we move forward during the campaign,” he said.
During his leadership bid, O’Toole also pledged to slash funding for CBC news and TV programming by 50 per cent.
By contrast, Currie said he would support maintaining local television programming on the CBC, including the nightly Compass newscast.
"If that's important to the residents of this city, if I'm the MP, absolutely," Currie said.
Currie said his “four pillars” of policy priorities for Charlottetown would be health care, the economy, environmental issues and housing. In particular, he expressed concern about P.E.I.’s economic recovery post-COVID.
“That keeps me up at night," he said.
"My father, he's still fixing shoes. He's 82 years old and he's still going to work every day. So, I get small business."
Reached by phone, Liberal MP Sean Casey said he plans to run in the upcoming federal election, whenever it occurs.
The federal Liberals allow sitting MPs to be acclaimed without a nomination contest if they meet certain thresholds for fundraising and door-knocking. Casey said he has met these thresholds.
Casey was complimentary about Currie’s political background.
"Doug and I have a long and favourable history," Casey said.
"I think Doug's biggest challenge is going to be selling the policies of his new party. They stand for austerity. We know that from when Mr. O'Toole was in cabinet. Their climate change policy is weak," Casey said.
The federal Greens and the NDP have yet to nominate candidates in Charlottetown.
Speculation about election timing has been rampant for months. Some suggest a spring election could be imminent.