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P.E.I. politics: A gentleman's sport

If the province of P.E.I. had a campaign slogan it would be of the "go big or go home" genre. From Liberal landslides to Tory sweeps, P.E.I. elections have been showy and dramatic changings of the guard. But despite the spectacular overthrows, campaigns have been conducted as a sport of etiquette. CBC has covered the continuing electoral spectacle as Islanders waffled between the Liberal and Tory tides, confronted issues of party patronage, and elected the first woman and non-European premiers in Canada.

Don't look for smear campaigns, unrealistic promises or radical posturing in P.E.I. elections. Appealing to a gentleman's sensibility has always been the winning rule on the Island. Take current Conservative premier Jim Lee, for example, whose style is reportedly so grassroots he disturbs the worms. P.E.I. voters have shied away from all things flashy. Instead they favour the common-sense issue of preserving the Island's way of life. This CBC Radio documentary explores the history of the polite provincial campaigns and finds that sometimes lying low has its advantages. 
• Jim Lee's Conservative team won 21 seats; the Liberals won 11 seats.
• The 1982 campaign was considered to be a lacklustre event by most accounts. On Sept. 25, 1982, Globe and Mail reporter Michael Harris wrote that while the electoral proceedings ended, the snoring continued in a campaign that "observers here are calling the dullest in years."

• As the 1993 federal election showed, negative ads can be a tricky undertaking. Conservative candidate Kim Campbell ran a caustic commercial that focused on Liberal leader Jean Chrétien facial paralysis and asked "Is this a Prime Minister?" The ad was not well received and was pulled immediately. The PCs, suffering through a mismanaged campaign, won only 2 seats compared to the Liberals' 177.
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: Sept. 26, 1982
Guest(s): Harry Baglole, Joe Ghiz, Jim Lee, John McNeil, Elmer Murphy, Richard Ozon
Host: Michael Enright, Barbara Smith
Duration: 12:06

Last updated: March 9, 2012

Page consulted on March 17, 2014

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