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  Main > Commentary >Best wishes
Voting Day September 29, 2003  
Commentary

Best wishes
Ian Dowbiggin | Sept. 29

Pigs don’t have wings, and there’ll never be true justice for all. But that won’t keep me from saying what I hope the provincial legislature will look like come Tuesday morning.

First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due. Premier Pat Binns and the Tories have run a smooth and savvy election campaign. They receive high marks for making sure they didn’t go into this election with major weaknesses. They ran on their record, accomplishments, and Binns’s considerable popularity. They deserve another majority, and they should get one. Let’s paint the province blue.

But not entirely. As the mounting interest in proportional representation shows, many Islanders aren’t happy with the historic electoral swings in this province. Because of the current "first-past-the-post" system, PEI tends to get huge government majorities like the present one. A vibrant opposition keeps the government on its toes by raising issues it might otherwise try to ignore.

A single opposition MLA is not enough. Five to seven Liberal MLAs would form a critical mass sufficient to provide at least pesky opposition.

So now down to particulars. The worst thing that can happen to the opposition Liberals and PEI in general is Robert Ghiz losing to George MacDonald in Charlottetown-Rochford Square. Ghiz without a seat in Province House would mean more tiresome and counter-productive Liberal in-fighting over who ought to lead the party. Nothing would please the Tories more. But it would mean a return to the weak opposition of the last three years. The jury is still out on Ghiz, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say the best interests of Islanders would be served if he had a seat.

As for the NDP, the latest poll has them at only 2% of decided voters. Do they deserve a seat? Last week Kevin Roach who says he was pressured into running by the party. These are the kinds of incidents that remind voters why the Island NDP perpetually seems on the verge of extinction.

But the example of Dr. Herb Dickieson, the only NDP MLA ever elected in PEI history, says the Island’s political landscape’s better off with at least one NDP seat. But which NDP candidate? One of the few good ones, activist J’Nan Brown, is doomed battling both Ghiz and MacDonald in District # 13. So why not Gary Robichaud, the party leader? He wins points for championing the health care concerns of seniors in this election. Desperately short of funds, he’s worked hard and selflessly. Let’s hope a miracle wins him District # 21 Wilmot-Summerside.

One issue that never got much traction in this election was the representation of women in provincial politics. The PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women unsuccessfully tried to highlight this and other women’s issues earlier in the campaign. The Council’s argument is that women voters would talk more about women’s issues if more candidates were female.

Actually, compared with the national average PEI’s rate of women parliamentarians is a respectable 19%. But Canada is ranked 34th in the world in terms of electing women legislators.

If Islanders are looking to improve on that ranking, they could start by seriously considering at least two women candidates who stand a chance of getting elected. Carolyn Bertram, running for the Liberals in District #17, is a teacher people are paying attention to. She’d be a welcome voice on educational issues in a new Legislative Assembly.

Then there’s Progressive Conservative candidate Donna Butler in District # 16. She’s up against the popular Ron MacKinley, the former Liberal Party leader, and the sole Liberal MLA since the last provincial election. MacKinley’s held the seat since 1985. But in the 2000 election he won the seat by only a 4% margin. Pat Binns has campaigned hard in this riding, evidence that the Tories think they can topple MacKinley. An upset victory for Butler in North River-Rice Point would help address the under-representation of women in PEI politics.

As I said at the outset, these choices are just my fantasy picks. But that doesn’t mean we can’t dream. Reality will arrive soon enough on Monday night.

 

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Ian Dowbiggin Ian Dowbiggin is professor of history at the University of Prince Edward Island. Author of four books, including the 1999 Canadian best-seller Suspicious Minds: The Triumph of Paranoia in Everyday Life, he's well-known to Maritime audiences as a controversial radio and television commentator on today's hot-button issues.

 

 
 

 

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