Cabinet shuffle points to early election on P.E.I., says political scientist

Prince Edward Islanders might want to start thinking about an early election, perhaps as early as this fall, says UPEI political scientist Don Desserud.

Don Desserud sees Liberals getting their team in place

Wade MacLauchlan dropping the ceremonial writ in 2015. Don Desserud believes we could see this happen again ahead of schedule. (CBC)

Prince Edward Islanders might want to start thinking about an early election, perhaps as early as this fall, says UPEI political scientist Don Desserud.

"This is what all the signs are pointing for," Desserud told CBC's Island Morning Thursday.

"I don't think that the government has decided they're going to go to an early election, but I think they're getting ready to make sure if the stars line up correctly that they can go, and be ready, and go very, very quickly. And by very, very quickly I mean as early as this fall."

All governments have a shelf life, says Don Desserud. (CBC)

Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced a major cabinet shuffle Wednesday, and it is the timing of the announcement that Desserud finds particularly interesting.

P.E.I. currently has an election scheduled Oct. 7, 2019, but there is speculation that date could move because it coincides with a federal election scheduled just two weeks later.

Why announce this now?— Don Desserud

Desserud believes P.E.I.'s Liberals are getting ready to go earlier.

The most significant moves in the shuffle were due to the resignations of Allen Roach and Alan McIsaac, who said they will not be reoffering in the next election.

"Why announce this now? The idea is that you're not going to run in a year and a half. That's a long time away … They want to have a new team in place," Desserud said.

All governments have a shelf life, said Desserud, and the best before date on P.E.I. is unusually firm.

Since 1986, it has been three terms and you're out for provincial governments. A slim majority for the Liberals in 1978, giving them a fourth term, is the only exception to that rule in the previous 20 years.

The Liberals are currently in their third term.

Forming a new government

Desserud noted that only two of the current cabinet ministers served under Robert Ghiz, who was premier for the Liberals' first two terms.

"They say, 'I know that people want a change. That's normal … We're the new government.' That's what the Liberals are saying," Desserud said.

The timing of the next election is largely dependent on season. No government wants an election in the winter, when campaigning is hard, or in summer, when no one wants to talk politics.

Chris Palmer became part of the new Liberal team in cabinet Wednesday. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

If the Liberals are to go early, that leaves them with just the spring of 2019, the fall of 2018 and this spring.

But even the spring is iffy, Desserud said, though the Liberals won the 2015 election in the month of May.

"Spring elections are volatile. Weather is volatile, people can be grumpy after a winter," he said.

"They don't blame the government for the weather but they often take out their frustrations on the government."

That's why an election this fall, just three-and-a-half years into the mandate, is possible, though Desserud said despite the traditional problems of spring elections, a dropping of the writ on the four-year anniversary of the last election seems more likely.

With files from Island Morning