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Before the election was called, a long-time observer of Island politics made the observation that ‘the Greens are going to elect a lot of MLAs, but it’s hard to know for which party.’
Last week, two polls reinforce that view. The polls show the Greens ahead, the Conservatives a relatively close second, and the Liberals in third place. And both polls had the NDP trailing badly. With the Liberals third, the Greens will likely take more votes from them than from the Tories. But, will they get enough votes to elect Green MLAs, or will the votes they take give Conservative candidates the edge?
That’s the unknown.
It’s likely the Conservatives can hold the eights seats they won in 2015. It’s not likely the Liberals will hold all five seats left vacant when the incumbents retired. If the Tories won three or four of those seats, that would give them 11 or 12 seats. It only takes 14 for a majority.
The Conservative strength lies east of the Hillsborough River, where they already hold five of the seven seats and have a good chance of winning at least one, if not both, of the vacant seats in that area.
The seven ridings from Summerside west to North Cape are a Liberal fortress which an opponent must penetrate if they are going to form a majority.
From Charlottetown to the outskirts of Summerside there are 13 seats. In 2015 the Liberals won nine of them. The three seats the Tories hold in that area are likely safe. The Greens now hold two seats; Peter Bevan-Baker is safe, but Hannah Bell isn’t a shoo-in. And now, there are only two safe Liberal seats.
The other three sitting Liberals could lose, and there are three seats without incumbents, all are up for grabs, including District 15, where Conservative leader Dennis King is running.
While it is relatively easy to identify from seven to a dozen seats both the Liberals and Conservatives might win, it is difficult to find ridings the Greens can win. Their strongest candidates are facing very solid, popular MLAs.
Matt MacFarlane is running against Conservative Jamie Fox in District 19. Mr. Fox won the riding with 47 per cent of the vote. To win, Mr. MacFarlane would have to take 300-500 votes from both the Liberals and the Tories, that’s a tough hill to climb.
In District 24, Nick Arsenault is another star candidate for the Greens. He’s also in a tough fight. In 2015, Sonny Gallant won the district for the Liberals with 63 per cent of the vote. For Mr. Arsenault to win he needs to take 500-600 votes from the Liberals and another 250-300 votes from the Tories.
Both Heath MacDonald in Cornwall and Robert Mitchell in Charlottetown-Winsloe shouldn’t have any difficulty. The other three Liberal cabinet ministers in the Charlottetown area have their work cut out for them.
Wade MacLauchlan will likely wake up on Wednesday morning without a government and without a seat. In District 12, Richard Brown is being threatened by the Greens, the Tories, and NDP leader Joe Byrne, who some credit with winning the CBC leaders debate. In District 13, Jordon Brown is facing three good candidates. He won by less than one per cent in 2015. This year he could be among the losers.
As was pointed out, it’s relatively easy to find ridings the Conservatives could win, it’s harder to find that many safe Liberal seats. Even though they have a strong lead in the polls, and a popular leader, it’s difficult to determine where the Greens can win seats they don’t already hold. But win them they will.
As strong as the Greens are, it’s doubtful they can win a majority. In this election Islanders will elect their first minority government since the 1800s.
Tuesday evening will be exciting. But, given the likely result, the rest of the week could be even more interesting. It may take time to determine who will govern. No one should discount the possibility of Canada having its first peacetime coalition government since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.