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RICK MACLEAN: One election, or two?

Holiday wishes differ for each of P.E.I.’s political parties for coming new year

This much is certain; the new year is an election year. Granted, we don’t know if it’s one election or two.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down to talk to reporters recently he ruled out an early election, so voters can expect to go the polls federally Oct. 21.

That’s one down. Now comes the fun part. P.E.I. The rules are clear. The fixed date in the Election Act is Oct. 7.

Well, sort of clear. That date is not etched in stone. If there is a federal election in October, the Island’s vote can be delayed to April, 2020. Oh, and the premier can call an election at any time.

Clear as mud, then.

If the ruling Liberals risk it and go to the polls next year, they must go early – May or June (ish) – or go in the fall, the feds be darned. Otherwise, it’s 2020. The decision may depend on whether or not the Greens and Conservatives have their Christmas wishes answered.

• The ruling Liberals need voters to forget how long they’ve been in power and give them a fourth term.

That is no small order, but it has happened before. The Liberals ran the show from 1935 through 1959 with Walter Lea, Thane Campbell, Walter Jones and Alexander Matheson taking turns in the big chair.

And Alex Campbell ran off another four straight from 1966 through 1978.

• Meanwhile, the Liberals need to hope the Greens don’t get their wish, which is a big one. The Greens need to translate polling popularity into seats in the legislature.

They’re off to a good start. A recent poll by Corporate Research Associates has the Greens slightly ahead at 37 per cent of decided voters, with the Liberals at 36. In real terms, that’s a tie because the poll of 604 people is considered accurate within four percentage points.

Translation. Toss a coin.

The issue isn’t popularity. The issue is can the party turn polling numbers into seats. Traditional wisdom says you need a political apparatus to get people elected because those workers get voters out on election day.

The Greens don’t have that kind of apparatus. They are young and riding the popularity of their leader. They may have to hope for a Jack Layton moment.

The federal NDP leader won big in Quebec in 2011 with 59 of his party’s 103 seats coming from there.

How big were Layton’s coat tails? Only two of those elected had sat in Parliament before. One, a former assistant campus pub manager from Ottawa, hadn’t even set foot in her riding, Berthier-Maskinongé, before the vote. She spent nothing, not even using the $22.50 the party kicked in.

She won again in 2015.

• Then there are the Conservatives. The ruling Liberals have to hope the Grinch keeps up his good work and the Tories fail to sort out their leadership merry-go-round.

They are trying, issuing a news release this week encouraging people to attend leadership debates Jan. 3, 8, and 17. Missed that news? That happens when you make the announcement five days before Christmas.

Still, the leadership convention isn’t until Feb. 9, so maybe they’ll have time to catch the public’s attention and get themselves in gear.

• The NDP? Rebuilding from the ground up is tough, and that’s where the party is right now. Electoral reform may be its best hope.

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

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