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Prince Edward Island Votes 2003
Prince Edward Island Legislature

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Voting Day September 29, 2003  

 Overall Election Results
Party Elected Leading Total Pop. Vote %
PC 23 0 23 53.96%
LIB 4 0 4 42.86%
NDP 0 0 0 3.18%
OTH 0 0 0 .00%
 Last Update Mon Sep 29 9:40:52 ADT 2003 27 seats



Islanders woke on Sept. 29 to learn the tail end of Hurricane Juan had swept across the province. By evening, a quiet bean farmer most people just call Pat swept the Island, blowing into the halls of power, and earning a place in modern political history.

When the counting was over the PCs, led by Pat Binns, were returned to power with 23 seats. His party giving up three of the 26 seats it held before the election to the Liberals under upstart leader Robert Ghiz.

By that time Juan had become a tropical depression. The day's political storm brought some depression too, mostly for the New Democrats who were shut out - again.

The Tories have captured 54 per cent of the popular vote, down 3.6 per cent from their standing in the last election. That loss bled over to the Liberal Party, which increased its vote share by 8.8 per cent over the 2000 general election to 42.8 per cent. The NDP had 3.2 per cent.

Writing history

Tory supporters carried 54-year-old Binns into the Northumberland Arena in Murray River, where he was greeted with warm hugs and by an elderly woman who grabbed him on his way to the podium for a victory dance. She was there 26 days before, dancing with Binns as he left the stage after playfully dropping the writ, asking Islanders for a third mandate.

"This is indeed a historic night. That's three wins in a row for the PC party of P.E.I.," Binns told a cheering crowd, numbers diminished by the fact that most of the community was still without power. "This happened because we had great support and a terrific campaign organization right across the province."

Party strategist Darren Peters says the easy win is a vote of confidence in the leader. "We've worked hard over the past six and a half years to provide good, solid responsible government to the province of Prince Edward Island and I feel that we've done that."

Support for the Conservatives continued in the traditionally Liberal western Prince Edward Island. Despite a number of close races, all nine districts went Conservative blue for the second time since the new electoral map was put in place in 1996.

Liberals recover from 2000

Back in Charlottetown the lights were on, and the former National Bank branch on Grafton Street was buzzing with political energy.

Liberal Leader Robert Ghiz helped increase his party's share of the vote by 8.6 per cent. He won his own seat, a battle in Charlottetown-Rochford Square, against Charlottetown Mayor George MacDonald, who was running for the PCs.

Ghiz says hard work made it happen. "We knew the Tories were throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink. But you did it," the 29-year-old leader told party supporters.

The newly minted leader, who was elected to the top job of the provincial party last April, also had a message for the government: "We're going to be there to hold you accountable for the next four years."

The Liberal leader is the son of the late premier Joe Ghiz. Robert watched the results with his mother, Rose Ellen, and grandmother Marguerite Ghiz. Anyone who remembers the 1986 election could not help but notice they were the same people who watched TV with Joe when the Liberals were elected.

On that night a jubilant father grabbed his son and hoisted him into the air on national TV. This time around, that boy hugged his mother and grandmother. He's wanted to be a politician all his life, and now Robert Ghiz says he'll be working to become the Island's next second generation premier.

Tory candidates George MacDonald, Bobby MacMillan and Norman MacPhee lost their districts to Liberals. Progressive Conservative candidate Donna Butler, in a rematch of the 2000 election, couldn't beat longtime Liberal Ron MacKinley.

In fact, MacKinley, who revels in his image as a rogue politician who won't be controlled by the backroom of the Liberal machine, was sent back to Province House with a decisive win. He won his district by 1,103 votes, only one candidate won by a larger margin.

MacKinley, who now has 18 years of continuous service in the legislature under his belt, becomes the "dean" of the legislature.

"Come the next election everyone here is looking at a government in waiting, because we will be there at the next election," Ghiz told his supporters.

The Grits also took away a key seat in Charlottetown-Kings Square; Richard Brown gained back the seat he lost in 2000 to Tory Bobby MacMillan.

All of the Liberal success came in Queens County, traditionally an area not as dependent on government patronage, and known for less predictable voting patterns.

The Opposition

  • Liberal Leader Robert Ghiz: Charlottetown-Rochford Square
  • Richard Brown: Charlottetown-Kings Square
  • Ron MacKinley: North River-Rice Point
  • Carolyn Bertram: Crapaud-Hazel Grove

"I think it's healthy to have four opposition members. We accept that, we want to be accountable," said Premier Binns.

Binns says he's not intimidated by a stronger Opposition, and looks forward to hearing from the Liberals. "We look forward to their input and their suggestions and just because they're the Opposition and we're the government doesn't mean we can't work together," he says. "Our sole goal here is to make Prince Edward Island the best place to live and we will work very hard at that."

NDP lose support

For NDP Leader Gary Robichaud the evening was a bit of a disappointment. The 41-year-old Summerside high school teacher set two goals going into the election: to run a full slate of candidates and to increase the popular vote.

There were New Democrats in 24 of 27 districts, and at the end of the night the popular vote had dropped to three per cent, nearly four per cent less than in the 2000 general election.

"I said before, we do not become New Democrats out of a thirst for power," Robichaud told supporters during his concession speech, promising to push NDP issues in the future.

"I'm disappointed, but for the resources we had, we did have a good campaign."

The Summerside high school teacher did gain respect, if not enough votes. Most pundits praised his performance in the public debates. With little to lose, he was quick to pressure the other parties on the issues of public auto insurance, health care for seniors, an increase to the minimum wage, and tuition drops for university students.

The party has failed to elect a single MLA since former leader Herb Dickieson won the riding of West Point-Bloomfield in 1996. Dickieson lost the seat in 2000.

The future

As soon as Pat Binns made his acceptance speech the questions about the length of his next mandate began. He promised 10 years in 1996, and given the traditional pattern of elections in the province, three and a half years should bring the Island to the end of the Binns decade.

However, even before the victory party was over, the Tories were saying they'll try to convince Binns to stay on to fight a fourth election.

While Islanders couldn't stop the hurricane force winds of Juan, Conservatives hope to stem the winds of change they'll face during the next four years.


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