Wade MacLauchlan announces P.E.I. Liberal leadership bid

Wade MacLauchlan makes an announcement regarding his political future with the Liberal Party of P.E.I.

Hundreds of Liberals gather to hear announcement

CBC News speaks with Liberal leadership candidate Wade MacLauchlan 4:16

Wade MacLauchlan, law professor, author, and former president of the University of Prince Edward Island, announced his bid to lead the P.E.I. Liberal Party Friday.

MacLauchlan made the announcement at a news conference in York, just outside of Charlottetown. If he is successful, MacLauchlan will automatically become P.E.I.'s next premier.

Current Liberal premier Robert Ghiz announced on Nov. 13 he would step down pending a leading convention, which has since been scheduled for Feb. 20-21.

MacLauchlan took the stage with the majority of the Liberal caucus standing behind him, including prominent cabinet ministers who were rumoured to be interested in the leadership. Finance and Energy Minister Wes Sheridan, Health Minister Doug Currie, Innovation and Higher Learning Minister Allen Roach, Education Minister Alan McIsaac and Agriculture Minister George Webster were all on the stage.

Transportation Minister Robert Vessey introduced MacLauchlan, and announced his candidacy.

"Optimist-in-chief"

In a speech following his introduction as a candidate, MacLauchlan acknowledged the province has issues that need to be addressed.

"We have challenges: fiscal, economic, demographic, environmental and others," he said.

But MacLauchlan said he was volunteering for the position of "optimist-in-chief."

MacLauchlan also encouraged the hundreds who had gathered for the announcement to get out and recruit new members to the Liberal Party, and promised to lead the effort. He said he will be travelling the Island in the months leading up to the leadership convention.

In particular, MacLauchlan stressed the need to engage young people. As a leader, he said, he would focus on giving young people hope that they could live and work on Prince Edward Island.

Political neophyte

MacLauchlan has virtually no political experience — he is a member of the North Shore community council — but his name immediately came up as a possible successor to Ghiz.

His experience at the university, where he was president from 1999 to 2011, made him one of the Island’s most prominent figures outside of politics.

Since leaving UPEI, MacLauchlan has pursued an interest in public affairs. He chaired the Palmer Conference on Public Sector Leadership in 2012: Canada as a Leader in Immigration Policy and Practice, and co-chaired the 2013 Georgetown Conference: Redefining Rural.

As president at UPEI, MacLauchlan had a regular theme of leveraging the university’s resources as an economic engine for the province. He has repeated his belief that post-secondary institutions are a strength for the region since.

Unusual campaign

MacLauchlan is the first to declare as a leadership candidate in what will be an unprecedented provincial election, which could come as early as March.

Both political parties in the Legislature are looking for new leaders, which means both be under new leadership for the next election.

No one has yet declared for the Progressive Conservative Party, which had scheduled a convention for May 30, but this week moved it to Feb. 28 in expectation of an early election.

Under fixed election date legislation, the province is scheduled to go to the polls Oct. 5, but with Ghiz stepping down, rumours of a spring election are rife.

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