Renewal key theme for P.E.I. premier-designate Wade MacLauchlan

The former president of the University of Prince Edward Island, Wade MacLauchlan, was confirmed Saturday as leader of the P.E.I. Liberal Party and premier designate.

P.E.I. entering election season with all new political leaders

Journalism instructor Rick MacLean, Charlottetown Liberal MP Sean Casey and outgoing P.E.I. premier Robert Ghiz with Compass host Bruce Rainnie at the P.E.I. Liberal leadership convention in Charlottetown. (CBC)

The former president of the University of Prince Edward Island, Wade MacLauchlan, was confirmed Saturday as leader of the P.E.I. Liberal Party and premier designate.

This is essentially a mature government that is being renewed.- Charlottetown Liberal MP Sean Casey

Premier Robert Ghiz announced last fall he was stepping down, pending the election of a new leader.

Speaking on a CBC News panel discussion as the convention got underway, outgoing Premier Robert Ghiz noted this convention was very different from the 2003 convention that saw him become leader.

Ghiz won a close race in a convention when the party had just one seat in the legislature. The Liberals have now been ruling since 2007.

"It was a time of rebuilding, now it's a time of renewal,"

"Those were very dark days for the Liberal party," added Charlottetown Liberal MP Sean Casey.

"This is essentially a mature government that is being renewed."

Charlottetown journalism instructor Rick MacLean said there are very high expectations for MacLauchlan, and his challenge is to both to excite the party and dampen down some of those expectations, which may be unrealistic.

MacLauchlan has faced some criticism for revealing little of his plans, and MacLean said MacLauchlan's convention speech will not satisfy those critics. It covered almost everything, he said, and consequently said very little about anything.

With an election expected in the spring, MacLean said it is not surprising MacLauchlan is hold his cards close to his chest.

"He's playing that coy dance … while we're all pushing him, quite rightly because he is going to be the premier, what is it exactly that you're going to do," said MacLean.

A detailed platform will likely have to wait until an election call, he said.

A volatile time

With the Progressive Conservatives selecting a new leader next Saturday, all four active parties on P.E.I. will be heading into an expected spring election with a new leader.

UPEI political scientist Don Desserud says it is difficult to predict which way the coming election will go. (CBC)

UPEI political scientist Don Desserud said that creates a volatile situation.

"It could go in almost any direction," said Desserud.

"There's lots of different scenarios out there. I think anyone would be hard pressed to pick one that's more likely than another at this point."

There has been a pattern of electing governments for several terms in a row in the Maritimes, said Desserud, but that pattern has changed recently in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and change could be coming to P.E.I. as well.

Optimist in chief

"They're looking for a leader to be their optimist in chief. I volunteer," MacLauchlan said when he announced he was in the race.

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As it turned out no race emerged. Some MLAs had leadership aspirations, but all soon fell in behind MacLauchlan.

MacLauchlan is an academic with no political experience. Opposition parties paint him as an elitist, out of touch with ordinary Islanders. MacLauchlan invited those critics to follow him around for a week.

"I don't have any trouble listening to and engaging with Islanders," he said.

MacLauchlan will be sworn in as premier on Monday. He's hoping to put a fresh face on the P.E.I. Liberals, while holding onto the sizable lead they've enjoyed in the polls under Ghiz.

Outgoing premier Robert Ghiz hasn't said what his plans are, but has ruled out a jump to federal politics for now.

Congratulations from Prime Minister

A news release from the Prime Minister's Office sent congratulations to MacLauchlan shortly after he was confirmed.

"I look forward to working with Mr. MacLauchlan to advance the interests of the people of Prince Edward Island and all Canadians, with a view to creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity across the province and country," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the release.

Harper added his thanks to the outgoing Premier Ghiz, and wished him the best in his future endeavours.


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