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Canadian Greens surge again as party takes second place in PEI election

by Greg Klein | April 23, 2019

Press time results (seats at dissolution in parentheses)

  • Progressive Conservatives: 12 seats, 36.5% of the popular vote (8)
  • Greens: 8 seats, 30.6% (2)
  • Liberals: 6 seats, 29.5% (16)
  • New Democrats: 0 seats, 3% (0)
  • Independent: 0 seats, 0.4% (1)
  • (Voting in one district was postponed)

Promoting its use of wind energy, Prince Edward Island likes to call itself “Canada’s Green Province.” On April 23 PEI’s government just missed turning Green itself.

In an historic first for Canada, the home of Confederation voted Greens into second place, following a few years of electoral gains for the once-marginal party in other parts of the country. At press time the popular vote showed Dennis King’s Progressive Conservatives just 6% higher than Peter Bevan-Baker’s Green Party, which came in barely ahead of the incumbent Liberals whose leader Wade MacLauchlan lost his district to a Tory. But the seat count gave PCs 12, Greens eight and Liberals six. That raises the question of who will rule the province, and how. Among the possibilities is a Green-supported minority government, as is the case in British Columbia.

Canadian Greens surge again as party takes second place in PEI election

PCs won more seats but Greens flourished in the
land of Green Gables. (Photo: PEI government)

Voting in one of the province’s 27 districts was postponed following the death of Green candidate Josh Underhay and his six-year-old son in a Good Friday canoeing accident.

The Liberals collapsed after three terms in office despite budget surpluses and avowals that PEI had built Canada’s strongest economy. Still the country’s biggest potato producer, the province’s other main resource industry is fishing. Economic diversification includes an aerospace industry that accounts for 20% of provincial exports and a bioscience sector employing over 1,000 people.

With 27 electoral districts for a population estimated at 154,748, most winning candidates draw well under 1,500 votes. At 5,660 square kilometres, the province holds just over one-sixth the landmass of Vancouver Island.

But the Greens’ performance suggests continuing growth in some parts of Canada. Last October the party took three places each on Vancouver’s council, parks board and school board, along with one each on neighbouring Burnaby’s council and school board. In B.C.’s 2017 provincial election, Greens rose from one MLA to three, a feat matched by New Brunswick Greens last September. Ontario elected its first Green MPP in June.

Southern Vancouver Island hosts Canada’s sole Green MP, as well as the three MLAs who hold the balance of power supporting B.C.’s minority NDP government.

The environmentalist-nationalist Québec Solidaire went from three to 10 seats in October’s Quebec election.

Not surprisingly, however, Greens fared poorly in last week’s Alberta election, where the party polled only 0.4%. Should PEI PCs hold onto government, they’ll join Alberta along with Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick in a bloc of provincial conservative governments.

A referendum asking whether PEI should switch to a mixed-member proportional voting system passed in 15 of 27 districts but failed to reach the 17-district threshold.

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