Youth engagement main focus for P.E.I. Liberals at annual general meeting

The Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island has a new president after its annual general meeting held Saturday morning in New Haven.

Douglas MacDonald says bringing the party "back to basics" will guide him in his new duties.

In the April provincial election, the Liberals went from leading a majority government to third-party status. The Liberals only picked up six out of 27 seats.

MacDonald said getting back to basics means "back to all the districts, re-engage, get people involved and ask for their views."

He said parties go through cycles and his party can view its new status as an opportunity to grow.

He said social media plays a big factor in politics today.

"The younger generation, they are engaged with smart phones, their news is coming in various forms and they are searching for that information," he said.

"It is an opportunity to find out what your ideas are and to present your ideas on a social media platform."

Youth are the future

MacDonald said P.E.I. Liberals are hoping to further engage youth.

"The youth have always been very much involved and very engaged with the Liberal party," he said. "We will work that circle and expand that circle.

He the party is rebuilding but he believes the future is positive.

Travis Kingdon/CBC

The Young Liberals Association also revealed a new leader at the meeting.

Nineteen-year-old Brianna O'Connor from Cornwall said she agrees with MacDonald that social media can help engage and attract youth to the party. 

"Youth engagement has always been important to the Liberal Party ever since I have been a part of it. Now that I am the president I want to keep that going."

O'Connor said she hopes to get high school students engaged and hopes to be able to make presentations to some students to attract them to the party.

Travis Kingdon/CBC

Robert Mitchell, Liberal MLA and former interim leader, agreed the party needs to reach out to youth and is encouraged to see a new president of the Young Liberals.

Mitchell said he stepped down from the role as temporary leader to "take a hard look" at running for permanent leadership.

"I'm still doing that. I am out talking to Islanders every day," he said.

"I'll take some time in the future to fully consider that," Mitchell said.

No plans for a leadership convention were announced at the meeting.

Steve Bruce/CBC

Liberal MLA Sonny Gallant is the interim leader. He stepped into the position when Mitchell stepped down in September.

He said there is no rush to choose a permanent leader of the party and it is hard to give a timeline.

Gallant said there have been a few names floating around for permanent leader. Mitchell's name is on the list.

Gallant added he rejects the idea of the Liberals rebuilding, because it implies that the party was built wrong. He reminds people that Liberals won three consecutive majority governments.

"Our party does not need to rebuild. We need to build new," Gallant said.

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