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Conservatives, Greens hope to loosen Liberal grip on P.E.I.

The urban district of Charlottetown has had a Liberal member of Parliament since 1988.
The urban district of Charlottetown has had a Liberal member of Parliament since 1988. - Flickr

What clues does the recent Prince Edward island provincial election give political watchers?

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

All four ridings in P.E.I. have voted reliably Liberal since the late 1980s.

But, provincially, the Island has seen a sea-change from red to blueish green. 

Last spring’s provincial vote saw the defeat of the three-term Liberal government, as well as the rise of the Progressive Conservatives, under the leadership of Dennis King. But the province’s Green party, buoyed by leader Peter Bevan-Baker, became the official opposition — a first for any provincial arm of party in Canada.

It’s difficult to say whether any party poses a serious challenge to this Liberal hold on P.E.I. But political watchers in the province will be paying close attention to the ridings of Charlottetown and Egmont on Monday night.

Charlottetown

Clockwise, from top left: Darcie Lanthier, Green Party, Fred MacLeod, Christian Heritage Party, Robert Campbell, Conservative Party, Sean Casey, Liberal Party, and Joe Byrne, New Democratic Party.
Clockwise, from top left: Darcie Lanthier, Green Party, Fred MacLeod, Christian Heritage Party, Robert Campbell, Conservative Party, Sean Casey, Liberal Party, and Joe Byrne, New Democratic Party.

The urban district of Charlottetown has had a Liberal member of Parliament since 1988. 

Incumbent Sean Casey is running for the third time and has been focused on making the case for the governing record of the Trudeau Liberals. In a city facing a chronic shortage of affordable rental housing, Casey has argued the Trudeau government has put money into constructing social housing and reducing child poverty through programs like the Canada Child Benefit. 

Still, he acknowledges Charlottetown’s 0.2 per cent vacancy rate is a serious concern. Housing was also a prominent issue in the spring provincial election.

“There's no denying that there are people suffering and struggling right now. But I don't think there is any credible way to say that this is anything but a temporary problem because of the commitments that we've already made,” Casey said.

Nationally, the Green party has identified Charlottetown as one of its key battleground ridings. Provincially, the Greens took three out of six seats in the city and Green candidate Darcie Lanthier is hoping this strong showing will catapult her into a federal seat. 

The federal party has pumped significant resources into Lanthier’s campaign. The party’s ad-buys on traditional media rival those of the Conservative and Liberal candidates, while Green signs are ever-present throughout the riding.

“This is one of those change elections,” Lanthier said.

“A lot of people are tired of the same-old and they see an opportunity for change.”

Lanthier has argued the campaign in Charlottetown is a two-way race between her and Casey.

In the 2015 election, NDP candidate Joe Byrne finished a distant second to Casey, who took 56 per cent of the vote. Byrne is running again this time for the NDP. Former police officer Robert Campbell is running for the Conservatives. Fred MacLeod is also running as the Christian Heritage Party candidate.

Egmont

The candidates for the P.E.I. riding of Egmont, from left, Alex Clark (Green), Sharon Dunn (NDP), Logan McLellan (Conservative) and Bobby Morrissey (Liberal).
The candidates for the P.E.I. riding of Egmont, from left, Alex Clark (Green), Sharon Dunn (NDP), Logan McLellan (Conservative) and Bobby Morrissey (Liberal).

The riding of Egmont has been the only P.E.I. district to choose a non-Liberal MP since 1988. 

Former Conservative fisheries minister Gail Shea represented the riding from 2008 until 2015 when she was defeated by Liberal Bobby Morrissey. 

West Point Lighthouse in P.E.I.'s Egmont riding - the only district on the island to choose a non-Liberal MP since 1988.  - Jennifer Hoegg
West Point Lighthouse in P.E.I.'s Egmont riding - the only district on the island to choose a non-Liberal MP since 1988.  - Jennifer Hoegg

The now incumbent Morrissey is a familiar name in P.E.I. politics. As a provincial cabinet minister in the 1990s, he played a significant role in redeveloping the former military base in Summerside into a regional hub for aerospace manufacturing. 

This time around, he is facing two younger opponents in 26-year old financial advisor Logan McLellan, the Conservative candidate, and 30-year old brewery owner Alex Clark, the Green candidate.

McLellan has been running a social media-heavy campaign since January. He has described himself as a “progressive conservative” and has maintained a disciplined focus on local issues in the district. He has generally avoided federal Conservative messaging aimed at Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

Provincially, three of the seven ridings in Egmont sent Greens to the legislature. These three ridings surrounded the town of Summerside. Clark is hoping this urban support will translate into support for the federal Greens.

The NDP is represented by Sharon Dunn, who retired after managing a senior citizen’s housing cooperative.

At a recent all-candidates debate, several of those running raised the shortage of doctors in the largely rural riding as a key concern. Like Charlottetown, Summerside is also facing a chronic lack of affordable rental housing, as well as long waitlists for seniors housing. 


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