Federal parties on P.E.I. say they're ready for an election, but nobody wants one

·4 min read

Representatives of the four political parties that ran a full slate of candidates on P.E.I. in the 2019 federal election say they're ready to go again in the spring.

But they all say there shouldn't be a spring federal election.

A cabinet shuffle by the federal Liberals has spurred speculation around the possibility of a spring writ. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he won't trigger an election at that time, but the Liberals are preparing for one all the same.

"We are planning for a spring election in the event that the opposition defeats the government on the budget," said Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, suggesting there's no "downside" to being ready for an election that doesn't happen.

If he doesn't want an election, I would encourage him to stop talking about an election. — Barry Balsom

Liberal MPs in the Atlantic region held a day-long caucus meeting Wednesday, during which Casey said election preparations were to be part of the discussion.

"I think it would be irresponsible for the opposition to bring us down in the middle of a pandemic," Casey said during a break in the meeting. "I don't think that's what Canadians want.... I hope it doesn't happen, but I expect it will."

'Stop playing games'

But according to some of their representatives on P.E.I., the opposition parties are in no mood to bring down the government.

Lindsay Carroll/CBC
Lindsay Carroll/CBC

"We're organized to fight an election. We're hoping we don't have to," said Barry Balsom, president of the Egmont Conservative Association.

Egmont is where the Liberals came closest to losing on P.E.I. during their 2019 sweep of the province, Conservative candidate Logan McLellan coming in 1,082 votes behind incumbent Bobby Morrissey.

Balsom said a search committee is in place to look for candidates, and couldn't say whether McLellan might run again.

But he said the Liberals have a mandate to govern, and should do so.

"We're in the middle of a pandemic crisis. We're in an economic crisis. I think that we should stop playing games here and let the government do its work."

Since the federal Liberals won a minority government in 2019 — garnering fewer votes overall than the Conservatives — the Conservatives have had a change in leadership, selecting Erin O'Toole in August of 2020.

"This is entirely in the prime minister's court," said Balsom. "If he doesn't want an election, I would encourage him to stop talking about an election.… I'm sure our party is willing to work with the government for Canadians."

'Never been better prepared'

David Daughton, P.E.I.'s representative on the federal council of the Green Party of Canada, said he expects the prime minister "to seek to lose a vote that can be spun to blame other parties for a pandemic election. It is irresponsible to call an election while significant pandemic risks persist."

The provincial Green Party became P.E.I.'s Official Opposition in 2019, but similar electoral success has thus far eluded the federal party in the province.

I'm always getting ready for an election, and that's especially true when you've got a minority government situation where anything can happen. — Lawrence MacAulay

If the writ comes this spring, Daughton said the federal party has "never been better prepared," with district associations in place in all four of P.E.I.'s federal ridings.

Mark Greenan, P.E.I.'s representative on the federal council for the NDP, said while the New Democrats would prefer "to continue to make a minority parliament work" rather than go to an election "during the second wave of a pandemic," he said the party is now debt-free and "ready to fund an even stronger campaign than we were able to last time."

Which incumbents will run again?

No P.E.I. candidates were among the 43 the Liberal Party of Canada had named as of Thursday.

But in an email, a spokesperson told CBC the party is "looking forward to being able to re-elect our hard-working team of Liberal MPs whenever the next campaign eventually arrives — including the strong team of Liberal MPs representing Prince Edward Island."

Casey said he plans to run again and has met the party's criteria to be able to avoid having his nomination contested, but was awaiting confirmation from the party.

Morrissey said he planned to run again in Egmont, and Malpeque MP Wayne Easter, first elected in 1993, said "I am running until I am not."

Easter said he expected parties in Ottawa to continue to work together, and added "I don't see an election in the works."

CBC was sent a statement on behalf of Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay, who has been elected 10 consecutive times starting in 1988.

"I'm always getting ready for an election, and that's especially true when you've got a minority government situation where anything can happen," the statement said.

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