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
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.
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
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.
- 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
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.
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
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
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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