10/03/2011 09:15 EDT | Updated 12/03/2011 05:12 EST

PEI Election: Robert Ghiz Re-Elected With Majority Government


CHARLOTTETOWN - Liberal Premier Robert Ghiz won his second majority government in Prince Edward Island, albeit a slightly reduced one, wrapping up an election Monday that saw bribery accusations rock an otherwise quiet campaign.

Ghiz defeated Opposition Conservative Leader Olive Crane, the only Tory incumbent running in the election. He easily won his riding of Charlottetown-Brighton, a largely residential district.

His Liberals won 22 of the province's 27 legislature seats. The Conservatives took the other five.

"We're extremely happy that Islanders have given us a chance to govern over the next four years," Ghiz said.

Heading into the election, there were 24 Liberals, two Conservatives and one seat was vacant.

Ghiz's victory builds upon a family dynasty in Island politics that began with his father Joe, who served two terms as the province's premier from 1986 to 1993.

"I'm sure he's looking down tonight and is extremely proud," Ghiz said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper applauded Ghiz for his win.

"On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate Premier Ghiz and his team on their victory," Harper said in a statement.

"I look forward to working with them on promoting economic prosperity and addressing issues of importance to the people of Prince Edward Island and Canada."

But Ghiz did not emerge from the election unscathed. Allan Campbell, a cabinet minister who oversaw an immigration program marred by allegations of bribery, lost his seat in Souris-Elmira to Tory challenger Colin Lavie.

During the campaign, Ghiz dismissed the allegations as an attempt by the Tories to blindside his government and accused the party of stirring the controversy unnecessarily.

On Monday, Ghiz accused the Conservatives of going overboard in their attacks.

"It was an extremely negative campaign where a lot of false accusations were made," he said.

"I chose to take the high road. I'm proud of the high road and I'm glad we won the election."

Crane won her rural district of Morell-Mermaid in eastern P.E.I.

"Today is about Islanders and they've made their decision," Crane told CBC.

"Of course, we would have liked to have done a little better, but looking back we would not have changed a bit of our strategy."

At 37 years of age, Ghiz is Canada's youngest premier, but he has eight years of frontline political experience. He was first elected to the legislature in 2003 and he first became premier in 2007.

Going into the campaign, Ghiz said he would not make any outlandish promises. He stuck to that generic message, telling voters he needed a second mandate to improve access to health and education.

Crane campaigned on promises to boost drug coverage and slash taxes, including a reduction in the provincial sales tax from 10 to eight per cent.

The province of 144,000 is coping with a number of economic challenges, including a net debt that's expected to climb to $1.8 billion by March — about $12,500 for every man, woman and child in P.E.I.

Ghiz said Monday that the economy would be a major focus for him as he begins his second mandate.

"The worldwide economy is going through some turbulent times so we need to make sure that as a province we're being very fiscally prudent with the dollars we have," he said.

The four-week campaign was largely uneventful. Both the Liberals and Conservatives took pains to avoid risks while on the campaign trail, waiting until the last week of the campaign to release their full platforms.

But just more than a week after the legislature was dissolved, accusations surfaced surrounding an immigration nominee program that was shut down in 2008.

A former employee of the program alleged she saw senior provincial officials accept cash that she believes was intended to fast-track immigration applications from China. The RCMP are considering whether to launch an investigation.

The New Democrats, Greens and Island party also fielded candidates, but only the Liberals and Conservatives ran full slates.

The election was the first under the province's fixed-date legislation.