Progressive Conservatives win decisive majority in Prince Edward Island

Voters in Prince Edward Island gave a decisive majority to the incumbent Progressive Conservative Party on Monday after a campaign dominated by the health care debate.

Premier Dennis King’s Conservatives were elected in 22 of the province’s 27 ridings, with the Liberals winning three seats and the Greens two, according to all polls. The Conservatives won 55.9% of the popular vote and King was easily re-elected in the Brackley-Hunter River constituency.

King’s first term was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, two major post-tropical storms and growing health care concerns.

“We haven’t shied away from the challenge for the past four years, and we certainly won’t be shying away from the challenge for the next four years,” he told a crowd of 300 supporters bathed in blue light late Monday. Hotels in downtown Charlottetown.

His party’s main challengers are the Green Party, led by Scottish-born dentist Peter Bevan Baker, and the Liberal Party, led by Sharon Cameron, a former bureaucrat who became a prominent leader less than five months ago. She challenged him on Bevan-Baker’s ride and lost to him on Monday for third.

At the time of dissolution, the Conservative Party had 15 seats. The Greens have eight seats and the Liberals four, having lost their majority to the Conservatives in 2019. The April 2019 vote made PEI the first Canadian province to have an official opposition party from the Green Party.

After the votes were counted on Monday, Bevin-Baker told supporters the Greens were entering a new chapter, losing their special status in the legislature.

“We will continue to serve the Islanders — even if our new role appears to be a third party,” he said. “We’ve been there before. We made the most of it. We’ve done some great work and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Political observers on the island have said voters appeared in no mood for more change when the campaign began on March 6. And there are signs that the Greens are not ready for election. At one point, Hannah Bell, a former Green MP in the legislature, said the party wasn’t doing enough planning or grassroots work.

The Greens and the Liberals have each nominated just 25 candidates, short of two.

Prince Edward Island political analyst Don Desserud said the Green Party’s decline is a result of the island’s voters reverting to traditional patterns. “It’s probably a more normal outcome, 2019 was an anomaly,” he said in an interview on Monday.

However, Desserud noted that the Greens won 21.6 percent of the popular vote, compared with 17.2 percent for the Liberals under Cameron. The Liberals have focused on criticizing the Greens to win back voters who abandoned them in 2019, with limited success, but the Liberals will form the official opposition by one seat more than the Greens.

On Monday night, Cameron told her supporters she regretted that islanders did not have a better chance to learn about her candidate, as King called the election six months before the province’s fixed election date. She said nothing about her political future.

“We knew this was going to be a major challenge,” she said.

As the campaign began, King singled out the challenges facing his administration: two hurricane-force storms — Dorian in 2019 and Fiona last September — and the economic fallout from the potato fungus, which Resulting in a disruption to the island’s most important crop export, not to mention a medical crisis.

King, a former journalist and spokesman for former premier Pat Binns, called the election less than two weeks after the province struck a 10-year, $966 million health care funding deal with Ottawa. Among other things, the Conservatives have pledged to take all Islanders off the provincial doctor waiting list within the next two years.

The Conservative strategy is to get voters to take note of what they have achieved despite obstacles. Deserud said King seemed to be saying, “If we can do it in that situation, imagine what we can do when we don’t have to deal with these crises.” The message seemed to resonate at the door.

The NDP, which was never a factor in the provincial race, ended up with just 4.5 percent of the vote. Elections PEI said 68.5 per cent of the province’s 109,587 registered voters cast their ballots.

—Hina Alam, Canadian Press

PEI election

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