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Journal Pioneer - 2021-11-24

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Cornwall-Meadowbank vote was one for the ages in Island politics

Opinion

ANDY WALKER Andy Walker is a P.E.I.-based political commentator. His column appears every week in the Journal Pioneer.

I have lived in the riding of Cornwall-Meadowbank (although it was not always called that) for more than 30 years. I have never seen a campaign like the Nov. 15 vote that sent Progressive Conservative Mark McLane to the provincial legislature. The four candidates collectively knocked on my door (or left literature in my mailbox) 10 times. I also received three telephone calls reminding me of advance polling days. In any avenue outside of politics, that would classify as harassment. MLAs of all stripes joined their candidates, especially during the last week of campaigning when the legislature was on a planning week. Opposition Leader Peter BevanBaker and Green candidate Todd Maclean, both accomplished musicians, gave an impromptu concert at one of the town's busiest intersections. The voter turnout of just over 55 per cent is the lowest in recent memory for any provincial vote. Islanders traditionally have one of the highest voter rates in the country when it comes to provincial politics – turnouts of around 80 per cent were once commonplace. However, that has been trending downhill in recent years. I even talked to somebody who couldn't see how the results could be valid given the low turnout. He did not say which party he supported by the smart money says he is not a Conservative. The win in the long-held Liberal riding is a huge feather in Premier Dennis King's cap and definitely puts him in the driver's seat for the next election. He is vowing to respect the fixed election date, meaning that vote would happen in October of 2023. While two years is a long time in politics, the race is his to lose as it stands right now. MacLane was the choice of 40 per cent of the voters. By contrast, the party got 17.6 per cent of the vote in 2019. For the Green Party, the campaign has to be a major heartbreak and a clear sign the wave that took them to opposition status in 2019 is cresting. Counting the deferred election in Charlotte town Hills borough Park caused by the tragic death of Josh Underhay in the last weekend of the last provincial campaign, they have now lost three times in a row. Bevan-Baker and his team put everything they had into the campaign. Maclean was the first of the candidates nominated and party workers were knocking on doors even before that. Ellen Jones had finished second in the riding by a margin of just over 500 votes to now Malpeque MP Heath MacDonald in 2019, and they were confident the running start would be an advantage. Instead, MacLean finished a distant third with 23.4 per cent of the vote. While the Liberals had over 30 years of history on their side, it was also the first time choosing a Liberal would have meant electing a member of the third-party caucus. While some people feel that should not have been an issue since MacDonald was on the thirdparty benches for the last three years, the reality was he was the province's finance minister when he was elected. Jane MacIsaac came a strong second, losing by just 170 votes. If the Liberal party wants to end its time in the political wilderness in 2023, it must hold a leadership convention fast. The fact no candidates have emerged in the two and a half years, and counting since Wade MacLauchlan stepped down is an embarrassment that has to end ASAP.

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