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ALAN HOLMAN: Most of the NDP platform is unrealistic

Island New Democrats leader Joe Byrne, left, chats with a former party leader, Dr. Herb Dickieson, during a western P.E.I. tour on Monday. Byrne was elected leader on April 7.
Island New Democrats leader Joe Byrne, left, chats with a former party leader, Dr. Herb Dickieson. - Eric McCarthy

In those areas of the country where the New Democratic Party occasionally has a chance of forming the government, Ontario and the West (and sometimes Nova Scotia), they present the electorate with a platform that gives a nod to some semblance of fiscal responsibility.

Where they don’t have a chance of forming the government, the NDP come up with programs that would require them to be able to print their own money, which in PEI they can’t do.

On Thursday when NDP leader, Joe Byrne, unveiled the program he’ll campaign on in the up-coming provincial election it became pretty obvious that the Island NDP isn’t expecting to form the next government.

It is too bad they didn’t try and pretend just a little bit, and not commit themselves to a program that is, in too many respects, divorced from reality. The idea that a province of a mere 150,000 people should have it’s own medical school is but one example. And, it is beyond being silly.

They claim that they will work with UPEI to make this happen “in the same manner as we developed the Atlantic Veterinary College.” Which, if nothing else, demonstrates they have no idea how the AVC came to be. The NDP either doesn’t know, or chooses to forget, that it took a lot of political effort to get the other three Atlantic provinces to support the AVC on the Island. Nova Scotia was particularly reluctant and fought hard to have it in Truro, with the Agricultural College. Does anyone in their right mind think Nova Scotia would agree to another medical school in the Maritimes? That PEI could afford it? Does anyone seriously think Ottawa would fund a medical faculty at UPEI?

Of the 24 items in the NDP program, eight, one-third of them are medically related, six of those involve supplying more doctors. When one looks at the program, and observes that Dr. Herb Dickinson, a former leader of the local NDP, stood by as Joe Byrne announced the program, it is hard not to think the doctor had a large role in its development.

Which is too bad. Dr. Dickinson was the only person ever elected to the legislature as an NDP candidate, but Mr. Byrne might be giving the good doctor too much credit for political sagacity. Mr. Byrne, should understand that Dr. Dickinson won when he did, mainly because of a threat to the O’Leary hospital, where he practised. Once elected he didn’t prove to be a very effective MLA and did nothing to grow the NDP brand, unlike Peter Bevan Baker and the Green Party.

In the last election the Greens, quite wisely focused on getting their leader elected. Once in the legislature Mr. Bevan Baker and his conciliatory nature proved to be an effective MLA, with a style that was the antithesis of Premier MacLauchlan. He has proven to be popular with the public and this has given a big boost to the Green Party brand.

The NDP also says it will add 40 doctors to the Island’s present roster. Thirty-two of the them will be in rural areas; an additional 16 in West Prince, and another 16 in King’s County. They claim they understand the problems of recruitment and retention, but they give no indication how they will be better at this than previous governments. Finding doctors for rural areas is a challenge that shouldn’t be under-estimated.

In 2015 when Joe Byrne ran federally in Charlottetown, he did quite well against Sean Casey. With nearly 5,000 votes he finished well ahead of the Tory candidate. Many of those votes came from District 12, where he is running provincially, and where it was thought he had an outside chance of beating Richard Brown. Especially if the NDP followed the Green example and concentrated on getting their leader elected.

With a few exceptions, the program the NDP unveiled on Thursday will do little to enhance Joe Byrne’s chances of victory . . . for himself, or any other candidate, including Dr. Dickinson.

Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at:

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