Happy earth day 2019 : will the people of PEI elect the first Green government in North America tomorrow?

Apr 22nd, 2019 | By | Category: Canadian Provinces
Excellent Grade A potatoes are one thing PEI is famous for in the rest of Canada. Beautiful beaches are another. Photo courtesy of Tourism PEI/John Sylvester.

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. EARTH DAY, MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2019. The first thing to say about the provincial election tomorrow in Canada’s smallest province of Prince Edward Island (on the east or Atlantic coast) is that the entire island (and Canada at large) has been sadly stricken by grief over the tragic deaths of Green candidate Josh Underhay and his son, in a canoeing accident this past Friday.

(There are 27 ridings or electoral districts in the PEI Legislative Assembly, but elections will be held in only 26 on April 23, 2019. No election will take place in Mr. Underhay’s old riding of Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park, out of respect for the tragic deaths. Somewhat further down the road a “by-election will be held at a date to be determined.”)

The next thing that will inevitably be said in, eg, the 192 out of 338 Canadian federal electoral districts with more than 100,000 people (on our hasty count at any rate) is that the current population of “the Island” is only 154,748. And note as well that at the time of the last federal election there were 10 federal ridings with more than 120,000 people.

At the same time, as of 2017 there is now a Canadian federal law known as the Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation Act. (In 1864 a conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island began the process that led to the Canadian confederation of British North American provinces in1867 – though PEI itself did not actually join until 1873.)

Whatever else, PEI remains a unique Canadian province. Much of this has turned around its preservation of pasts that have almost altogether faded away, in parts of the country with more people and without the Islander spirit that only a compact, self-contained geography can sustain.

There are now provocative signs, however, that in its April 23, 2019 election Canada’s smallest province may be about to make a big bow to the future as well, by electing the first Green party government in North America.

For some reason, in the global village today the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush, Park Corner, PEI is a place where couples from Japan like to get married!

(In the sense, say, that the Canadian province of Saskatchewan elected the “first socialist government in North America” back in 1944. Green politicians have certainly been elected in all of the United States, Mexico, and Canada. But, in our current state of knowledge, it seems fair enough to guess that a full-blown Green government has yet to be installed at provincial/state or federal levels in any of the three countries?)

PEI’s small population makes realistic opinion polling somewhat more difficult than in places with more people. Peter Stewart Bevan-Baker’s Green Party nonetheless first jumped into the polling lead very briefly in early 2018, and then more frequently this past summer of 2018. According to the Wikipedia article on “2019 Prince Edward Island general election,” the Greens have led consistently in the last half dozen polls that have been taken, since late January 2019.

Here on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario we of course have no special knowledge about what will happen tomorrow. But we’re happy to recommend :

  • The Pollcast: Is PEI ready to give the Greens a try? … The CBC’s Kerry Campbell talks about the PEI election.” CBC News, Apr 18, 2019 : CBC polls analyst Éric Grenier is interviewing Mr. Campbell here. One encouraging note is that the PEI campaign has apparently been notably civil, unlike (so far?) the emerging federal campaign that will climax on October 21.
  • A new vote projection points to a historic Green win in PEI… Philippe J. Fournier: Uncertainty remains high but a simplified 338 electoral model puts the Green Party just above the threshold for a majority win.” Maclean’s, Apr 21, 2019. “Philippe J. Fournier is the creator of 338Canada.com, Qc125.com, a regular contributor to L’actualité magazine and a professor of physics and astrophysics at Cégep de Saint-Laurent in Montréal.”
  • What We’re Watching: Is the land of Anne about to go Green?. … By Kady O’Malley. ipolitics.ca, Apr 22,2019. Ms. O’Malley, who has been remarkably sensible lately about such matters as SNC-Lavalin, notes : “According to the latest polls, the PEI Greens are poised to win a majority of the 26 seats up for grabs in the provincial legislature, which would make party leader Peter Bevan-Baker the first capital-G Green premier in the country.”
The almost 13-kilometre long Confederation Bridge, opened in 1997, at last connected Prince Edward Island with the Canadian mainland in New Brunswick. Photo : Igor I. Solar.

For added zest tomorrow night the PEI election will include a referendum on electoral reform. Islanders will be asked “Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?” To be implemented the reform “must be approved by a majority of voters in at least 60% of the province’s 27 provincial electoral districts.”

According to the local Guardian newspaper : “PEI voters could not be any more divided on electoral reform.” But there will be some great irony afoot if the Islanders finally do vote for a Green majority government and for the kind of electoral reform that would arguably make a similar majority government quite unlikely down the road.

We’ll be watching closely and will report back briefly when the results are known. Meanwhile, best wishes to the people of Canada’s Island democracy who will be making the decisions – on both the Green party and electoral reform! And congratulations on conducting an election campaign with some civility in 2019.

UPDATE APRIL 24, 12:30 AM : The Greens did well, but not well enough to form even a minority government. In a legislature where 14 seats makes a bare majority that limited honour goes to the Progressive Conservatives led by Dennis King, who won 12 seats with 36.5% of the Island-wide popular vote.

From left to right, NDP Leader Joe Byrne, Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan smile at the provincial debate in Summerside, PEI on April 16, 2019. Photo by Andrew Vaughan/CP.”

The Greens led by Peter Bevan-Baker did manage to become official opposition, with 8 seats and 30.6% of the popular vote. Former Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Liberals, who were seeking an unusual fourth consecutive term in office, had to rest content with only 6 seats and 29.5% of the vote. (The balance of the Island-wide vote and 0 seats went to Joe Byrne’s NDP.)

Premier-elect Dennis King was apparently one of the people who kept this still unusual 2019 PEI election so unusually civil. His minority government may have better prospects with non-partisan support in the legislature than usual?

Voter turnout was 80.5% – compared eg to 58% in the 2018 Ontario provincial election and an unusually high 71% in the recent 2019 Alberta election. In the accompanying electoral reform referendum, Islanders “narrowly chose to keep the first-past-the-post system rather than switch to a mixed-member proportional system of voting.”

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