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P.E.I. NDP leader says party will rebuild after poor election showing

JoeAnne Callaghan, one of the organizer’s for NDP leader Joe Byrne’s campaign, gives Byrne a hug as the leader watched the results come in. Byrne finished last in District 12 Charlottetown-Victoria Park.
JoeAnne Callaghan, one of the organizer’s for NDP leader Joe Byrne’s campaign, gives Byrne a hug as the leader watched the results come in. Byrne finished last in District 12 Charlottetown-Victoria Park. - Jim Day
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

NDP leader Joe Byrne remained upbeat despite both him and his party being pummeled at the polls.

The New Democratic Party won no seats and managed only about three per cent of the popular vote in Tuesday’s election that saw the Progressive Conservatives form a minority government with the Green Party in second place with just theree seats in the difference.

Byrne went down to a decisive defeat placing last in District 12 Charlottetown-Victoria Park with 338 votes, well behind winning Green party candidate Karla Bernard who garnered 1,272 votes.

Byrne, who took part in 10 leadership debates during the campaign, says he was not able to get to every door in his riding.

“People really need to see you at election time but I wasn’t able to see everybody, but I was able to see a lot of people and then relied a lot on volunteers,’’ he says.

He takes both the poor personal and poor party showing as an indicator of the challenge ahead.

“We’re clearly in a rebuilding phase,’’ he says.

“So, we need to rebuild. We have a great group of candidates on message. We just have to keep building up, expanding our reach, and going with our message, which I think is a good one.’’

“Leading a party is always a combination of two things: a party that wants a particular leader and a leader that is able to feel that she or he can do the job. So that’s a conversation that we will be having with the executive council and the members.’’
-Joe Byrne

Byrne, who was elected NDP leader April 7, 2018, says the party has come through some difficult years in basic organizing.

He is pleased with the “good, solid’’ organizers that have since been attracted to the party.

The party had hope of winning a seat early in the evening as NDP candidate Herb Dickieson was a close second after the advanced polls were released. In the end, he had a strong showing in District 25 O’Leary-Inverness, placing second with 893 votes behind Liberal Robert Henderson who retained his seat with 1,102 votes.

“He (Dickieson) did an excellent job in getting his message out and getting the vote in,’’ says Byrne.

Byrne, a long-time activist for social justice, campaigned in the federal Charlottetown riding for two elections and served for years on the national council of the NDP.

He says his future as NDP leader depends on a couple of factors, noting the party’s constitution calls for a leadership review to be held before November.

“Leading a party is always a combination of two things: a party that wants a particular leader and a leader that is able to feel that she or he can do the job,’’ he says.

“So that’s a conversation that we will be having with the executive council and the members.’’

As for the overall election results, Byrne told The Guardian before the polls closed that he was hopeful of seeing either the PCs or the Greens form a minority government.

“I think people have been very clear at the door that people are just tired of the Liberals,’’ says Byrne.

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