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RICK MACLEAN: Every vote counts, just ask Islanders

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M-c-I-s … M-c-I-n.

‘N’ comes before ‘s,’ so it’s closer to the start of the alphabet, so Progressive Conservative Mary Ellen McInnis, you get heads. Liberal Alan McIsaac, you get tails.

Those are the rules. Here we go.

McIsaac would say later he was a bit tense as the centennial coin flew from the fingers of P.E.I.’s chief electoral officer, hit the floor at the Atlantic Technology Centre in Charlottetown, bounced off the leg of a chair and rolled to a stop.

Tails.

It wasn’t decided by the original vote count, which gave Liberal incumbent McIsaac a two-vote victory.

It wasn’t the judicial recount. Seems one ballot counted for McIsaac belonged to McInnis – tricky thing, counting votes in the hurly burly of election night when names are so similar. The correct count was 1,173 votes each.

A tie in P.E.I. provincial politics means the issue is settled by the flip of a coin.

It was life changing. Instead of adding to the opposition benches a ninth Conservative MLA, McInnis’s candidacy became a trivia question.

Well, wait until next time. Someone who lost that way deserved a chance next time. It only seemed fair.

But the voters had something else in mind this year. McInnis beat her Liberal opponent by – compared to last time – a comfortable 32 votes. It didn’t matter. Voters were ready to give the Greens a chance. Michele Beaton collected 1,152 votes and the seat.

McInnis was the only Conservative to lose in eastern P.E.I. - and five of the six Tory winners were incumbents. Had the laws of physics prompted that coin in 2015 to land heads, turning McInnis into the incumbent…well, history might have been very different.

She might have won this time. And, the Conservatives, after the delayed election in District 9, would have had 14 seats instead of 13. That’s a majority government, instead of their 13-seat minority.

So, if anyone knows that every vote counts, it is McInnis, all the people who worked to try to get her elected, twice, the provincial government – and the federal Liberals.

That last one helps explain the appearance on P.E.I. in recent days of the federal minsters of environment, tourism, and international trade.

The national election is Oct. 12, and if the polls are any indication, it will be close.

A few months ago, the federal Liberals and Justin Trudeau looked ready to cruise to a second term, not an unusual occurrence in this country.

Then they picked a fight with cabinet ministers Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. They accused Trudeau of behaving badly when it came to lobbying efforts for major Quebec employer SNC-Lavalin, the firm in trouble over accusations of bribery in its international business dealings.

The women quit cabinet, were tossed from the party, and vowed to run as independents.

But the story faded with time and the Liberals, after looking like SNC Lavalin would sink their re-election bid, were on the rise again. Until this week, when an ethics report said Trudeau acted badly. The impact on the election isn’t clear yet, but if you’re a Liberal, it’s not good news.

That means every vote counts, even in P.E.I., which is usually ignored in the battle over seatrich Quebec and Ontario. That’s why the cabinet ministers were here.

McInnis and McIssac know how they feel.

Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

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