Doug Currie to run for federal Conservatives in Charlottetown

·3 min read

Former Prince Edward Island Liberal cabinet minister Doug Currie announced Friday that he will run for the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Charlottetown in the next federal election.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole issued a written release welcoming the former provincial health minister to the Tory team.

Currie was acclaimed, meaning no one challenged him for the nomination and the party declared him the candidate without a vote being needed.

He addressed his switch in parties during a Zoom interview with CBC News. "For me, this decision's not about really political spectrum, it's more about bringing my passion and my concern and care for the city. It wasn't about really blue versus red, it was more about public service, and you know, I'm very passionate about it."

Currie was elected as the MLA for District 11 Charlottetown-Parkdale in 2007 and held several cabinet roles before his resignation in October 2017, including health, education, attorney-general and justice serving premiers Robert Ghiz and Wade MacLauchlan.

"As the federal government navigates the post-pandemic economic recovery, we need a strong voice in Ottawa to ensure the needs of the people of Charlottetown are being met," Currie said in the written release.

"That's why I'm joining the Erin O'Toole team and Canada's Conservatives. We need a competent, compassionate and prudent plan that supports the well-being of the people of Charlottetown and the unique needs of Islanders for generations to come."

Will take on Casey

When Currie resigned from politics in 2017, he said he'd "had a good run" and didn't expect to compete in the next election.

Currie was an educator before being elected. He returned to the field after leaving politics, working with textbook publisher Nelson Canada and then as vice-president of corporate services at P.E.I.'s Holland College.

I think this is going to make the next federal election very, very interesting in Prince Edward Island. — Don Desserud

There is no date for a federal election — the last one in October 2019 produced a minority government for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — although speculation spiked a few weeks ago when Trudeau shuffled his cabinet.

When an election is called or is forced by opposition MPs combining votes to defeat the government, Currie will be taking on incumbent Liberal MP Sean Casey, who has said he will be seeking a fourth term.

In 2019, Casey won 44 per cent of the vote in the Charlottetown riding. The Green Party's Darcie Lanthier came second with 23 per cent of the vote and Conservative Robert Campbell earned 20 per cent.

Neither the Green Party nor the NDP has named a candidate so far.

'Very, very interesting'

"This is really interesting… there's been stories about Mr. Currie wanting to run federally circulating for a while," said UPEI political science professor Don Desserud.

"I think this is going to make the next federal election very, very interesting in Prince Edward Island."

He said while people will likely be surprised about Currie's change in political stripe, perhaps they shouldn't be, especially given that there are four strong incumbent Liberal MPs on the Island at the moment.

Kevin Yarr/CBC
Kevin Yarr/CBC

"Maybe it speaks to what's happening with the political parties at the national level… where if you want to be successful in Canada, you have to gravitate toward the middle," he said.

O'Toole wants to shake off any notion that his Conservative party is too far right on the political spectrum. Earlier this week he maintained the party "sits squarely in the centre of Canadian politics." Signing up a prominent former Liberal could be a way to help the centrist brand, Desserud suggested.

Going up against an incumbent is a "tough road for Mr. Currie to follow," Desserud said, noting that voters tend to be suspicious of politicians who switch parties.

"Maybe he knows something we don't know about possible dissatisfaction with the Liberals after one and a half terms, [or] maybe it's basically to position himself for future contests as well," Desserud said.

More from CBC P.E.I.