The Current

P.E.I. election could be a breakthrough moment for the Green Party, says pollster

While it may be tempting to predict that the shadow of the SNC-Lavalin affair threatens to loom over the P.E.I. election, pollster David Coletto cautions against any predictions that prioritize the goings-on at Ottawa over the concerns of P.E.I. voters.

P.E.I. Green Party has been leading the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives in polls for months

Peter Bevan-Baker's P.E.I. Green Party have been leading the polls ahead of the province's April 23 election for months. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
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While the SNC-Lavalin affair might not seal the P.E.I. Liberal party's fate, pollster David Coletto says a positive showing for the surging Green Party may convince more Canadians that it is a viable alternative option.

"It doesn't mean that Canadians are going to wake [up] and say, 'I'm going to vote Green,' but I think it does perhaps give more of them a willingness to listen and to consider the Green Party, because they perhaps never thought they could win anywhere," Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

He cautioned against directly conflating the ongoing SNC-Lavalin affair with the fate of P.E.I. Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan.

"A lot of it's really led by kind of more local issues rather than sort of federal politics, although the SNC Lavalin scandal has not helped the governing Liberals," he explained.

Prince Edward Islanders will go to the polls on April 23. The Green Party has led in four of the last five polls

Much of that popularity, said Coletto, is about P.E.I. Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, a former dentist who demonstrated his political tenacity when he was first elected as an MLA in 2015 — his tenth attempt at winning a seat, either federally or provincially.

"He's ... kind of known as this affable, reasonable guy," said Coletto. "He's sort of a typical kind of island figure — a little bit quirky, but he's also ... an extremely well-spoken guy."

Bevan-Baker's rise in popularity threatens to break a long cycle of Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments in the province.

"P.E.I. has sort of functioned as sort of a two-party province, really, for most of its history. So the fact that the Greens are polling ahead of the governing Liberals is pretty much unheard of," said Coletto.

Stuart Neatby, chief political reporter for the P.E.I. Guardian, says that Bevan-Baker has helped grow the Green Party's image beyond a single-issue party focused solely on climate change and environment issues.

"We're in the midst of a housing crisis," he said. "A lot of people are seeing that there's simply no rental accommodation that they can find, and the Greens have actually been a pretty effective advocate on that."

To discuss the latest updates in the SNC-Lavalin affair, P.E.I.'s upcoming election, and the possible future for the Green Party across the country, Anna Maria Tremonti spoke to:

  • Mia Rabson, energy and environment reporter for the Canadian Press.
  • David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data.
  • Stu Neatby, chief political reporter at the P.E.I. Guardian.

Written by Jonathan Ore. Produced by Idella Sturino.

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