NEWS
10/19/2015 20:49 EDT | Updated 10/19/2016 01:12 EDT

Liberals sweep P.E.I.'s four ridings, toppling fisheries minister

BLOOMFIELD, Canada — The Liberals strengthened their hold on Prince Edward Island in Monday's federal election, sweeping the province's four seats and claiming a high-profile member of Stephen Harper's cabinet.

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea lost her riding of Egmont to Liberal Bobby Morrissey.

Personally popular, Shea won the traditional Liberal stronghold by a slim margin in 2008 and by more than 4,000 votes in 2011.

But as the 11-week campaign progressed she increasingly battled the anti-Harper sentiment that ran strong across the Island, where the Liberals held three of the four federal seats when the election began.

The urge for change was fatal for her hopes in Egmont, a riding that was seen from the outset as a potentially tough three-way race.

In the end it wasn't close as the votes rolled in and Morrissey steadily pulled away.

Recognized as a down-to-earth, no-nonsense politician, Shea couldn't overcome issues such as changes made to the Employment Insurance program — a sensitive topic in a province where rural unemployment is high.

Many political observers have also pointed to the government's handling of the Senate expenses scandal, involving former Islander Mike Duffy, as a large obstacle to overcome.

Meanwhile, long-serving Liberal incumbent Lawrence MacAulay easily outdistanced his closest challenger, Conservative Julius Pataki in the Cardigan riding. MacAulay, with 27 years in office heading into the election, is the longest serving federal politician in Island history.

Wayne Easter, another veteran Liberal incumbent, also eventually pulled away from Tory candidate Stephen Stewart in Malpeque.

Concerns over Conservative cuts to the federal civil service in Charlottetown is believed to have played a role in Liberal incumbent Sean Casey's win in the Island's capital region.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press