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VIDEO: P.E.I. voters heading to the polls April 23

The leaders of P.E.I.'s four political parties — from left, Liberal leader Wade MacLauchlan, PC leader Dennis King, Green leader Peter Bevan-Baker, and NDP leader Joe Byrne — will vie for votes in a provincial election on April 23, 2019.
The leaders of P.E.I.'s four political parties — from left, Liberal leader Wade MacLauchlan, PC leader Dennis King, Green leader Peter Bevan-Baker, and NDP leader Joe Byrne — will vie for votes in a provincial election on April 23, 2019. - Contributed

Premier Wade MacLauchlan makes surprise election call at Charlottetown-Victoria Park nominating meeting

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Island voters will go to the polls on April 23 in an election widely anticipated to be the first three-way battle in P.E.I.’s electoral history.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan dropped the writ to officially kick off the campaigning Tuesday night at a Liberal party nomination meeting at the Rodd Charlottetown.

The embattled premier has seen both his personal polling numbers and those of his party drop significantly in recent months. A recent poll showed the Liberals in third place with Island voters, trailing far behind Peter Bevan-Baker’s Green party and the Progressive Conservative party under newly elected leader Dennis King.

The April voting day will be on a Tuesday, a rarity in recent P.E.I. political history.

In his speech, MacLauchlan said he visited the residence of the Island’s Lieutenant-Governor on Tuesday afternoon. When asked why he decided to call an election now rather than after a planned spring sitting of the legislature, MacLauchlan said his government had fulfilled its mandate.

"We have an opportunity to put before Islanders a program and to ask for their confidence. On the basis of that we would go to the legislature to implement that program," MacLauchlan said.

In a statement, the first-term premier emphasized the record of his government.

“This election will be about the future of our province. Together, we have made tremendous progress in our province,” MacLauchlan said. “Our team will present a clear plan on jobs, healthcare, education and affordability that builds on our strong record.”

MacLauchlan described the election as a stark choice between his leadership, a divisive PC party and an “untested” Green party.

"We have a conservative party that practices division. That in order to raise people up, you tear others down or you divide communities against each other and Islanders against Islanders,” MacLauchlan said.

He said the Green party lacked vision and had ill-defined policies. He took aim at Bevan-Baker personally.

“The future of our province is too important to risk on uncertain, expensive social experiments, led by a career politician,” MacLauchlan said.

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan dropped the writ to officially kick off a spring 2019 provincial election campaign during a Liberal party nomination meeting in Charlottetown on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.
P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan dropped the writ to officially kick off a spring 2019 provincial election campaign during a Liberal party nomination meeting in Charlottetown on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.


Total number of candidates nominated so far, including those expected Tuesday night

  • Liberals: 24
  • Greens: 21
  • PCs: 19
  • NDP: 9
  • Independent: 1

As of Tuesday night, no party has completed nominations of all 27 candidates. As of deadline, Richard Brown was expected to be nominated in Charlottetown-Victoria Park, bringing the total number of Liberal candidates to 24.

The PC’s have so far nominated 17 candidates, while the Greens have nominated 19. Both parties had two more nominations expected on Tuesday night.

The NDP has nominated nine candidates while one independent candidate has been registered.

Posted by The Guardian on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Struggled to connect

Despite a surging economy, MacLauchlan has struggled to connect with voters. The premier has focused speeches in recent public events on strong employment gains, and growth in the export and manufacturing sectors during his tenure.

The Conference Board of Canada recently predicted P.E.I.’s real Gross Domestic Product would grow by 3.2 per cent in 2019, a rate that would lead every other province in Canada.

But these economic gains have not slowed the rise in popularity of the Island’s Green party. Green party leader Peter Bevan-Baker has become the most popular figure in P.E.I. politics. In polling conducted by Corporate Research Associates, Bevan-Baker has been rated as the individual most Islanders prefer as premier since February of 2017.

Reached by phone, Bevan-Baker said his party was prepared for the election.

He said voters have been responding positively to the party, and that candidates have heard that voters view them as the party of change.

“Greens are on the rise in many parts of the world,” Bevan-Baker said. “That is in part a rejection of conventional politics and unimaginative politicians.”

Since winning the first ever seat for the Greens in 2015, Bevan-Baker was joined by Hannah Bell, who won a byelection in Charlottetown-Parkdale in the fall of 2017. No third party has succeeded in electing more than one member in P.E.I.’s legislature since Confederation.

In the CRA poll released earlier this month, the Greens stood at 38 per cent, while the PC’s were polling at 29 per cent. The Liberals trailed both parties with 27 per cent support amongst decided voters. Twenty-six per cent of voters were undecided.

The PC Party saw a significant jump in support in this poll, rising from 20 per cent in November 2018, to 29 per cent in February 2019. However, leader Dennis King, who was selected in a leadership vote in early February, was rated as the preferred premier by only 15 per cent of voters.

Tuesday night, King attended a nomination meeting at St. Peter’s Cathedral, steps from where MacLauchlan made the election announcement. In a speech, King said the party has been building momentum since his leadership win in February. He said his party was committed to focusing on people and was poised to win government.

“If we don’t do it, kick us the hell out because we don’t deserve to be there,” King said to a crowd of PC supporters. 

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