3 parties look to end Liberal hold in Malpeque

You have to look back in history to find the last time the federal riding of Malpeque was represented by any party other than the Liberals.

Incumbent has been in the position for 26 years

Farms and fisheries along with more suburban areas make up the riding that has been a liberal stronghold for decades. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

You have to look back in history to find the last time the federal riding of Malpeque was represented by any party other than the Liberals.

You will find it in 1984, with Mel Gass, but he held the seat for the Progressive Conservatives for one term. The riding was taken back by Liberal Catherine Callbeck in 1988. 

Then a legacy that would last for over two decades began with Wayne Easter when he won his first election in 1993. 

This time around three candidates — including one Easter has gone up against before — are trying to shake things up.

Malpeque is an oddly shaped riding, running from just east of Summerside, up to the North Shore. It then skirts around Charlottetown, but takes in the larger centre of Cornwall and parts of the South Shore. It's home to fisheries, farmland along with suburban dwellers. 

Voters in Malpeque told CBC health care, seniors' issues and respect in politics were their top concerns. (CBC)

Issues on voters' minds 

CBC spoke to voters in Kensington, North Rustico, and Cornwall and found the opinions are as varied as the riding makeup itself. 

One overriding issue that many mentioned was health care. 

"I have a five-month-old baby that doesn't have a family doctor," said Emily Rooney of Clyde River.

"So that's definitely a really huge issue for us since he hasn't seen a family doctor since he was two weeks old." 

Emily Rooney and Don Avery, along with many others in the riding say health care is their biggest concern. (Rick Gibbs/CBC )

And the same goes for the older voters, said Don Avery, who said in his circle of senior friends, health care is top of mind. 

"When you're on a fixed income and your medical or your prescriptions are high, those two take a lot of your money," he said.

Charlene Robertson agrees about health care, saying more money needs to be filtered down to the provinces. She also brought up another topic popular among voters CBC spoke to — respect in politics. 

"I'm an older woman and as an older woman I want respect and I want to be reflected in my government," she said.

"We might have seen a lot of women elected to government this time and put it in positions and suddenly those women have gone by the wayside," said Robertson, referring specifically to the SNC Lavalin affair.

Charlene Robertson, Chris Myers and Christine Bjornsson all say respect in politics is what they are listening for. (Rick Gibbs/CBC )

In North Rustico, two voters agreed that there should be more respect and fewer shots fired during campaigns, and in the House of Commons. 

"I'd just like to see politicians actually doing work instead of arguing amongst each other. If they're able to do any sort of progress, any party is good," said Chris Myers.

"I would like there not to be mudslinging. That's what turns me off the voting, period. So I just want the candidates to tell me what they would offer not what other people don't offer," said Christine Bjornsson

Wayne Easter — Liberal

That is the message Liberal candidate Wayne Easter is trying to get across — that he is a straight shooter . 

"If you were to look at some of my signs, they say hard work, straight talk. That has been my theme ever since the first election. I don't think I've veered from that very much over all my time in government," he said while knocking on doors in Cornwall. 

Easter has held some prominent positions in his time in Ottawa, including chairing the finance committee — though he has only served in cabinet once, as solicitor general in 2002-2003.

Liberal candidate Wayne Easter, (left) campaigning in Cornwall. He says he wants to work on affordability. (Rick Gibbs/CBC )

He said he has tried to commit himself to constituent issues, and this time around there is a recurring theme, one he'd like to continue to work on.

"The cost of living issue and the ability for people, regardless whether it's a senior or a university student, the ability to be able to have a good economic prosperous life," he said.

"In the past term, I think we've [done] a fair bit to address those issues. There's more needs to be done. I think the best program that we've had since we formed government is certainly the Canada child benefit."

Easter is also speaking with voters about the number of infrastructure investments the Trudeau government has put in place on P.E.I. and the return to funding for research projects, especially in agriculture. 

Stephen Stewart — Conservative 

Stephen Stewart, the Conservative candidate, said he is focused on affordability too, pointing mainly to his party's plan to scrap the carbon tax. 

Stewart ran in the 2015 election but lost by over 10,000 votes to Easter. The retired businessman said his 30 years in the mussel industry, including building the processing plant in Borden-Carleton, has given him one quality he said is needed in Ottawa.

Conservative candidate Stephen Stewart (right) greets voters in Crapaud. He says common sense is what he will bring to Ottawa. (Rick Gibbs/CBC )

"We need some common sense to solve the issues. That is number one. And that's something that the Conservatives are going to do and me especially," he said. When asked for some specific ideas, Stewart said he would rather share those with voters at the door. 

"I don't want to share those issues until I get elected because they're good ideas, I believe. But, maybe they're not the greatest ideas. I still want to get there — get elected and table those ideas and see why they won't work."

Anna Keenan — Green 

Green candidate Anna Keenan is focused on climate change and has been for most of her professional life, including currently working for an international climate change organization. 

"That is the main reason that's driven me to get involved in politics," she said.

Originally from Australia, Keenan moved to P.E.I. in 2015 and now lives in New Glasgow with her family. She got involved in politics on the Island as the campaign director for the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation during the 2016 plebiscite on electoral reform, and served as the provincial Green Party president in 2017.

That involvement has been an eye-opener, she said. 

Green candidate Anna Keenan (right) at her office in Cornwall, says climate change is what got her into politics. (Rick Gibbs/CBC )

"I've become much more aware of some of the struggles that people are facing in their daily lives here from the health-care shortages to affordable housing, and some of just the basic economic challenges that we have on P.E.I. that need to be addressed." 

When Keenan is going door to door, she has some key talking points such as the Green Party's plan for universal pharmacare, and creating more rental and public housing to help with the housing crisis.

She said she also wants climate change initiatives to help with affordability. One idea is to allow people to borrow money from the federal government for green investments in their homes or vehicles. "The main barrier is helping people over that initial hurdle," she said.

Craig Nash — NDP 

Craig Nash calls himself the working man's candidate, and he's no stranger to the riding, having run in Cornwall during the recent provincial election. 

He works as a commissionaire and used to own a small business that closed three years ago. He also served a short time in the military before being honourably discharged because of injury. 

He said health is on the minds of voters he's speaking with and he commits to bringing more doctors to the Island, through creating a medical faculty at UPEI, something the NDP pitched in the provincial election. 

NDP candidate Craig Nash says he can relate to many of the affordability issues Islanders are facing. (Rick Gibbs/CBC )

He also said he believes in abolishing the two-zone employment insurance system in the province. 

Overall, he said he is running to see a change for everyone. 

"I'm one of you. I'm one of the people, I work for minimum wage. I don't have a dental-care program. I don't have a drug program," he said.

"I think it really comes down to dollars and cents and where the dollars and cents are going is a really big thing. We're spending a lot of money on a pipeline and then we've got people, we've got children that are going to bed in this province hungry. It's unacceptable."

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About the Author

Natalia Goodwin

Video Journalist

Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.


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