PEI·PEI Votes

5 lessons from the P.E.I. provincial election

UPEI political science professor Don Desserud looks back at the most interesting election on P.E.I. in decades.

How the legislature might work, and what directions the parties might take

Wade MacLauchlan, left, is out, and Dennis King, right, is in. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

UPEI political science professor Don Desserud looks back at the most interesting election on P.E.I. in decades.

On Tuesday P.E.I. voters elected the first minority government on P.E.I. in the modern era, and created the first Green official Opposition in Canadian history.

A vote for change

Desserud said there is a clear vote for change in these election results, but perhaps not primarily for a change of party leading the government.

"It was the mandate for a change in the style of politics," he said.

"I think people are getting really fed up with the acrimonious politics."

A minority government will force the parties to work together.

Why the Green support slipped

The Green Party led in opinion polls in the months leading up to the campaign, and one poll reported support of 40 per cent during the campaign.

On election day Green support was just over 30 per cent. Desserud said there is a message to the party from Islanders in this.

That's the thing about minority governments. People can reorganize and then you have a vote of non-confidence and then we could be back in an election in two years.— Don Desserud, UPEI

"Really like you, like your message, but we're not quite ready to move forward," he said.

He noted Green support is largely urban, and the party still has work to do to make a big move into rural areas.

Minorities are hard

Desserud believes the minority government will hold, certainly for the short term, and possibly for the long term.

The Greens have already said they plan to co-operate, so it is unlikely they will turn on the government with the first speech from the throne or budget.

"Down the road, things can go off the rails," said Desserud.

"That's the thing about minority governments. People can reorganize and then you have a vote of non-confidence and then we could be back in an election in two years."

Desserud believes the Greens are more likely to continue forward with the government, building up the government skills of a largely inexperienced caucus before the next election.

Why no coalition

Dennis King has said his government will work on an issue-by-issue basis, seeking support for each bill as they go along, instead of creating a coalition.

In this way, Desserud said, King is keeping his options open.

You have to rebuild the party. Who's going to rebuild the party? It's a thankless job at this point, so it'll be very difficult to find the right kind of leader.— Don Desserud, UPEI

"I suspect that what he's trying to do there is tell the Green Party that, OK this is great, thank you for agreeing to be co-operative, and that we're going to work together, [but] we are calling the shots. We do have another party we can go to if we need to," said Desserud.

The downside is working a minority in this way can be less stable, he said.

Rebuilding is hard

This election took the Liberal Party from government to the political wilderness.

They are the third party, and their leader did not win a seat.

"There is an emotional psychological aspect to this work where you're trying to get support, you're trying to get your people back," said Desserud.

"You have to rebuild the party. Who's going to rebuild the party? It's a thankless job at this point, so it'll be very difficult to find the right kind of leader."

Desserud believes Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan will step aside in favour of someone else for the rebuilding.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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