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Why District 14 is one to watch this election period

The District 14 Charlottetown-West Royalty candidate race is one to watch this election period, largely due to the fact that there is no incumbent seeking re-election in the district.

District 14 is 1 of 2 P.E.I. districts featuring a 5-way race

Healthcare, affordable housing, mental health and hospital wait-times are some of the top issues candidates in District 14 are hearing from residents. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

There may never have been a district with so many familiar faces, yet no returning incumbent — sort of.

The District 14 Charlottetown-West Royalty candidate race is one to watch this election period, largely due to the fact that there is no incumbent seeking re-election in the district.

It will also be one of two districts across the province with a five-way race — featuring a number candidates with political history in the area vying for the seat.

The candidates are:

  • Angus Birt – Progressive Conservative.
  • Bush Dumville – Independent.
  • Gavin Hall – Green.
  • Gord McNeilly – Liberal.
  • Janis Newman – NDP.

Changing party politics

It's a district that has certainly seen a lot of change over the last several years. Its boundaries were redrawn in 2015, and now reach north up Sleepy Hollow Road, combining most of former District 14 Charlottetown-Lewis Point with some of former District 15 West Royalty-Springvale.

The seat was previously held by Liberal MLA, Kathleen Casey who announced last year that she would not be seeking re-election. She was first elected to the legislature in 2007.

Historically, the district has changed hands between the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties on P.E.I. But in the 2015 provincial election, NDP candidate Gord McNeilly came close to disrupting that pattern. He lost to Liberal incumbent Kathleen Casey by 109 votes — it was the closest the NDP came to winning a seat in the district.

'It's my journey and I'm sharing that with all the people in the district and I'm not afraid of challenges or, you know the way things are supposed to be done,' says Liberal candidate Gord McNeilly. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

But now, McNeilly is taking a second shot at the district, this time running for the Liberals.

"I was really proud of what our district did, really worked hard four years ago and you know I'm going around and I'm talking about that," McNeilly said. "It's my journey and I'm sharing that with all the people in the district and I'm not afraid of challenges or, you know the way things are supposed to be done."

"But I saw that the Liberal party has done amazing things in P.E.I. … I'm running now to do some good and bring some good to the people."

Also running in District 14 is Independent candidate Bush Dumville.

Although this is predominantly Liberal Kathleen Casey's former district, Dumville has some claim to it too as an incumbent because of the electoral boundary changes.

In the realignment, District 14 annexed the West Royalty neighbourhood in Charlottetown — hence the district's new name: Charlottetown-West Royalty. Most of Dumville's former riding of West Royalty-Springvale has expanded out to P.E.I.'s rural interior and is now called Brackley-Hunter River.

Dumville also has a long political history in the Charlottetown area, making his way to the legislature after he was elected as a member of the Liberal Party in District 15 West Royalty-Springvale in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

Independent candidate Bush Dumville resigned from the Liberal caucus in Jan. 2018 because he said he grew tired of being asked to toe the party line. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

He resigned from the caucus in January 2018 because he said he grew tired of being asked to toe the party line. An advocate for the elimination of parties on P.E.I, Dumville has sat as an Independent since and is hoping to represent the district as an Independent once again.

"I'm working really hard and I'm going to the doors," Dumville said. "My focus will be on mental health, housing and I'll be the representative for District 14. I'll scream from the roof-tops to make sure this district is looked after." 

New to the race

Another familiar face in this district race belongs to PC candidate Angus Birt. While this is his first time running in a provincial election, Birt has been heavily involved with the P.E.I. PC Party for decades. Birt defeated PC leadership candidate Shawn Driscoll to win the nomination last month.

"I grew up in this district, I know a lot of people and I feel it was my time," Birt said.

While this is his first time running in a provincial election, Birt has been heavily involved with the P.E.I. PC Party for decades. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Green Party candidate Gavin Hall is also running in the district for the first time. Hall said he's lived in the district and worked as a realtor in Charlottetown for several years and said he believes the district is ready for change.

"Really not very happy about how things have been going and in talking to people over time I decided to step forward," Hall said.

Green Party candidate Gavin Hall is running in the district for the first time and says he believes the district is ready for change. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"I think it's super important that people feel like who ever their elected representative is, is somebody that they can reach out to … I think trying to pivot and change the way people look at what their MLA or their elected representative is, is really important." 

The CBC reached out to NDP candidate Janis Newman for comment and did not receive a response.

The big issues

According to McNeilly, access to healthcare services is one of the major concerns he's hearing from those who live in the district. 

"It's always a fight and it's a constant fight across our country, so we have to be first and we have to be doing the things to get P.E.I. the best healthcare possible," McNeilly said.

The district boundaries were redrawn in 2015, and now reach north to Sleepy Hollow Road, combining much of former District 14 Charlottetown-Lewis Point with some of the former District 15 West Royalty-Springvale. (Elections P.E.I.)

Birt said affordable housing is also a key issue in the area.

"There's some people hurting, you know, looking for homes and the rents are so high and it's a big issue that we've certainly got to deal with," Birt said. 

Dumville added mental health services and hospital wait-times to the list of concerns he's hearing from constituents as he goes door-to-door.

For Hall, one of the key themes he's heard going door-to-door are people's concerns about the future of the district and availability of long-term care.

"People care about their children and their grandchildren, that's been one of the main things I've been hearing," Hall said. "We're all aging and we're all getting older, our parents are getting older, our grandparents are getting older and we need to care for our families."

Parties or candidates?

Despite the changes it's seen over the years, this is district with plenty of strong candidates, which makes predicting an outcome a real challenge, said UPEI political scientist Don Desserud. 

"It is a really interesting district in that the dynamic is quite fascinating," Desserud said. He added that past elections in the district have been quite close, meaning he anticipates seeing another tight race in the upcoming election.

For Desserud, the big question in District 14 is whether constituents will be casting their ballot for particular parties or the candidates themselves.

"It's very much what we would a call a neighbourhood riding," Desserud said. "People see that riding as a community and they're more interested in the candidates perhaps than they are in the parties, now election night might prove me wrong … but that I think is going to be the final factor in people's choices."

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About the Author

Brittany Spencer is a multi-platform journalist with CBC P.E.I. Email: brittany.spencer@cbc.ca

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