The PEI election is “a huge protest vote” with the NDP and the Greens taking 22 per cent of the popular vote, notes Charlottetown-based social justice activist Marian White.
“This election saw Islanders rage against the sense of entitlement exhibited by key political leaders. The lack of transparency and accountability in the Provincial Nominee Program and e-gaming left us disgusted with both the Liberals and Conservatives. Abortion services got attention from the NDP and Greens who promised Women’s Health Centres while the other two parties decided to stick with the status quo,” says White.
While the Liberals did win the majority in PEI, voters definitely sent a message.
“Islanders want change. The lean Green machine elected Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, making history with a resounding win. The massive turnout of 86.7 per cent was the highest in 30 years. A sure sign of discontent was the 10 per cent loss in popular vote going to the Liberals. The results point out the need for a system of proportional representation,” says White.
Dr. Irene Novaczek, a marine biologist, Director of Island Studies at UPEI and a Green Party candidate in the last federal election, agrees with White over the need for proportional representation.
“It is even more clear after this election that Islanders want to see civility and integrity in politics, and more attention paid to social and environmental justice, good governance and fiscal responsibility. Peter Bevan Baker will bring all of that into the legislature and with 22 per cent of the vote going to greens and NDP the argument for proportional representation is stronger than ever,” argues Dr. Novaczek.
Fair Vote PEI says that over 42,000 voters, nearly 54 per cent of those who went to the polls, wasted their vote. The First-Past-the-Post-System allowed the Liberals to walk away with landslide results, even though their popular support dropped from 51 per cent in 2011 to 41 per cent in this election, according to the organization.
Brenda Oslawsky, from Fair Vote PEI and Vice President of Fair Vote Canada says, “Despite the fact that so many voters cast ineffective votes and are going unrepresented, I hope that this election serves to re-open the discussion of electoral reform — namely the adoption of Proportional Representation.”
According to Fair Vote PEI, if the island had adopted the mixed-member proportional system, the seat breakdown for this election would have seen the Liberals with 11 seats, the PCs with 10 seats, and the Greens and NDP both with three seats each. The Liberals would have been forced to form a coalition with either the NDP or the Greens to get legislation passed.
The opposition PCs were elected in eight ridings. Rob Lantz, PC leader, did not win his seat in a close race. Lantz says he may request a recount.
Measures of austerity and cuts to social programs has many Islanders worried. The newly elected Premier plans to remove the Minister of Labour position from Cabinet and the Liberals did not respond to a number of surveys including one on health care from the PEI Health Coalition.
MacLauchlan was the only party leader who did not commit to a moratorium on fracking despite such moratoriums already in place in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec.
Islanders are also concerned that the Liberal government may go ahead with approving deep water wells for agriculture at the behest of the Irving’s and their growers that produce potatoes for french fries.
Bevan-Baker makes history in PEI
Bevan-Baker, taking 54 per cent of the vote in his riding, is the first Green MLA to be elected in PEI and the third-elected Green in a provincial election in Canada. PEI has only once elected a member to their Legislative Assembly from outside the two dominant political parties — the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives.
Bevan-Baker, a dentist, writer, musician and public speaker won the Kellys Cross/Cumberland riding, taking it from incumbent Liberal Cabinet Minister Valerie Docherty.
Eliza Starchild Knockwood, a Mi’kmaq woman from Abegweit First Nation, is jubilant over the election of Bevan-Baker: “Peter Bevan-Baker is the true definition of leadership, of positive change and hope for our present and future generations. His love and respect for Mother Earth and all peoples is truly admirable.”
“I will be forever grateful to the Green Party of PEI for embracing and enhancing my life as a Mi’kmaq woman of Epekwitk [PEI],” says Knockwood, who was a candidate for the Green Party in the federal and provincial elections of 2011.
Tracy Glynn is a writer and editor with the NB Media Co-op. This story first appeared in Rabble.