Thursday, May 7, 2015

Greens make breakthrough in PEI election but Liberals win majority again

The ruling Liberal Party retained a third majority in the PEI legislature winning 18 of 27 seats even though their vote count was down a whopping ten per cent from the last election.
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All four leaders were running in their first campaign. Wade MacLauchlan for the Liberals is a well known and respected personage in PEI and helped prevent an even greater fall in the fortune of the Liberals. The Liberals held 20 seats in the last legislature at dissolution.The new leader of the Progressive Conservatives, Rob Lantz, failed to win his seat although the party won 8 seats, a gain of 5 seats, and a much better showing than last election. He lost by just 24 votes so there will likely be a recount. One of the most surprising results in the contest was a huge increase in votes for both the NDP and the Green Party. Both traditional parties lost vote percentage. Usually results of PEI elections are predictable not long after polls close but this election was different with it being a considerable time before anyone was even declared elected and with many close races. Probably there will be several recounts. An NDP candidate was ahead all night but lost the election on the last poll. The party ended up with no seats. Together the NDP and Greens together won 22 per cent of the vote, in itself a huge break with tradition. However, the first-past-the-post electoral system results in third parties rarely being elected. MacLauchlan hinted during the campaign that electoral reform could be on his agenda but he stressed most economic development. A plebiscite taken in 2005 on the issue of proportional representation was soundly defeated. However, with the trend towards rejection of the major parties by a significant proportion of voters perhaps a new vote on the issue might give a more positive result.
The most dramatic result in the PEI election was the election of Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker. In spite of the huge disadvantage of running for a third party and against a Liberal cabinet minister, Bevan-Baker scored a decisive win. He won close to 55 per cent of the vote in Kelly's Cross-Cumberland constituency receiving 2,077 votes against just 1,046 for his opponent Valerie Docherty. In the first poll results Bevan-Baker got more votes than in his total vote count last election. The Greens concentrated most of their resources on Bevan-Baker's campaign while the NDP which received nearly the same vote percentage had a more province-wide campaign and won no seats even though the party had a huge increase in their popular vote from three to eleven per cent. Leader Mike Redmond came in third in his own constituency.
Reacting to the election Liberal Prime Minister, Wade MacLauchlan, a former president of the University of PEI, said: “It has been a very interesting evening in the province, one that I expect has taken us further into the evening than people may have intended. I think that indicates it will be a very interesting era that’s ahead of us in terms of Prince Edward Island politics and we very much look forward to being part of that. “

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