NEWS

P.E.I. election called for May 4

04/06/2015 06:34 EDT | Updated 06/06/2015 05:59 EDT
Prince Edward Islanders will go to the polls May 4.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan made the announcement at his nomination meeting to represent the district of York-Oyster Bed on Monday night.

The Liberal Party heads into the election holding 23 of 27 seats, with three Progressive Conservatives and one Independent holding the balance of the seats. The Liberals have governed since 2007.

Fixed election-date legislation had set the next provincial election for Oct. 5, but an earlier date comes as no surprise. A spring election call was set up when Robert Ghiz announced his resignation as premier in November, pending the selection of a new Liberal leader.

MacLauchlan was named leader on Feb. 21 and sworn in as premier two days later. Few expected he would wait until October to attempt to win his own mandate.

4 new party leaders

A major theme for the coming campaign is likely to be renewal, as all four parties — Liberal, Progressive Conservative, New Democrat and Green — have new leaders. None of the leaders has served in the legislature. 

The Liberals enter the election campaign with some prominent members not reoffering, giving them the opportunity to bring in some fresh faces in addition to the new leader.

The new Progressive Conservative leader is Rob Lantz, who was a popular city councillor in Charlottetown for two terms. The Tories moved up their leadership convention, which had been scheduled for May, and Lantz was elected leader on Feb. 28, when he warned the Liberals that his party was election ready.

The Tory leadership convention was its most successful ever, with almost 3,000 votes cast.

The Tory campaign effectively started when Lantz was named leader, and government accountability has emerged as a key theme. Lantz has already promised a royal commission on accountability in government that would focus on controversial aspects of the Robert Ghiz government: the provincial nominee program, the e-gaming venture, and the lending and write-off practices of government.

Greens and NDP

While either the Liberals or Progressive Conservatives will almost certainly form government after the election, the Greens and the NDP are hoping for representation in the legislature.

The NDP is the only party apart from the Liberals and Tories to have elected a member to the legislature, and that was just once — Herb Dickieson from 1996-2000. Since that achievement, the party's fortunes have faded considerably. In the last three elections, the NDP has failed to gather more than 3.2 per cent of the popular vote.

Under new leader Mike Redmond, the NDP has attracted a lot of attention. In early 2013, public opinion polls suggested the NDP had the support of one in four voters, well ahead of what the Progressive Conservatives were polling at the time. Numbers have slipped for the NDP since then, and Redmond will face a challenge to win his seat.

The Green Party has been active over the last few weeks. Leader Peter Bevan-Baker has been vocal in commenting on issues, and the party has already released its platform.

The Green Party has won more votes in the last two elections than the NDP, but the NDP currently has a jump on the Greens in the number of candidates announced. The NDP has 18 and the Greens just seven.

How the unproven four leaders perform over the next few weeks will likely play a significant role in their parties' fortunes on voting day.

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