Island voters prepare to go back to the polls

The federal election campaign is officially underway and Islanders should be seeing political signs back up again for the third time in a year.

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau met with Gov. Gen. Julie Payette Wednesday morning, asking her to dissolve Parliament and launch Canada's 43rd general election.

The election period will last 40 days and voters will head to the polls on Oct. 21.

Prince Edward Island has four ridings that'll be contended. From west to east they are Egmont, Malpeque, Charlottetown and Cardigan — essentially a riding for each county plus the capital.

As of Friday, Sept. 13, there are 18 candidates nominated on P.E.I. for the federal election. There are a couple more candidates in the process of being nominated.

UPEI political science Prof. Don Desserud, says this election will differ greatly from the "calm, collegial campaign we saw provincially here" back in April. 

"We just had a provincial election and my sense is that a lot of people were not looking forward to this election, more like dreading this election," he said.

"It has a sense of tedium about it already."

Ben Nelms/Reuters, Henry Nicholls/Reuters, Chris Wattie/Reuters, Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Desserud said he expects there may be a focus among federal leaders on Atlantic Canada given that the Liberals swept these provinces last election and they may not do that this time.

He said he's not sold on the leaders themselves saying that none have "captured people's imagination" and seem to be more concerned in this election, "with whose support they're going to lose, than whose support they're going to gain."

With silence so far from federal leaders on P.E.I.-related issues, Desserud said, it'll be worth watching to see whether a leader takes any of the Island's issues on as "they might decide that there's something that resonates that they didn't realize and suddenly jump on that bandwagon."

Here are a couple of issues top of mind for many Islanders.

Housing crisis

CBC

One of the biggest concerns for Islanders has been the housing crisis on Prince Edward Island. With the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reporting in November 2018 that P.E.I.'s vacancy rate is hovering around 0.2 per cent, many Islanders are facing homelessness and shelters are filling up, particularly in Charlottetown.

The market has been dubbed "cutthroat" by some, as people struggle to find a place to live, especially one that's affordable.

EI zones

John Robertson/CBC

Something that's been flagged by Islanders as problematic over the years is P.E.I.'s two-zone EI system. The province used to have one zone, but during the Harper years that was switched to two — the switch means some people have to work more hours to qualify for EI benefits than before depending on where they live.

All four Island MPs vowed to reverse P.E.I. back to one zone during the 2015 campaign but the change hasn't happened.

Ahead of election, mixed polls

According to CBC's Poll Tracker, the Liberals are at this moment projected to win the most seats — but whether any party can secure a majority after the 40-day campaign remains to be seen.

On P.E.I., two recent polls offer different glimpses at where the parties stand among voters across the province.

An MQO poll conducted between July 31 and Aug. 6, where 400 Islanders were reached by phone, showed that support for the Liberals held at 40 per cent.

Support for the Conservative Party was at 34 per cent, with the Greens to 21 per cent and the NDP falling slightly to four per cent. Support for the People's Party, of which there's no nominated candidates yet on P.E.I., was at one per cent.

That poll found 27 per cent of Islanders undecided and the margin of error among decided voters was 5.7 percentage points.

However, a Narrative Research poll conducted between July 31 and Aug. 22 that spoke with 300 Islanders by phone found the Conservatives to be the first choice of 40 per cent of Islanders.

The Liberals hovered at 35 per cent with the Greens remaining at 21 per cent. 

A large number of those reached, 37 per cent, were undecided. The overall margin of error for the poll was 5.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error among decided voters was 7.1 percentage points.

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