The electoral outcome in PEI on April 23rd demonstrates that conservative political leaderships can win with a positive message that prioritizes the environment and climate action. By virtue of the Green Party’s very close second place finish it is fair to say that PEI may be the greenest provincial electorate in Canada. Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Liberals failed to secure a fourth term despite delivering strong economic leadership and a promise of more of the same. The Progressive Conservatives (PCs) won 12 seats with 37 percent of the popular vote, the Greens
won 9 seats with of 31 percent of the popular vote, and the incumbent Liberals
won 5 seats with 29 percent of the popular vote. There is a great deal of overlap between the first and second place parties with the platforms of both the PCs and the
Greens emphasizing environmental stewardship and climate
action. They also share a common focus on social issues.
Clean green campaigns
The election politics were polite and respectful and the campaigns were civil as was the debate. The PCs ultimately won with positive messaging focused on people and as a minority government status ensures that the parties will have to work together in order to form a government. In an acknowledgement of the political reality PC leader Dennis King said he would refrain from partisanship and engage in positive governance.
Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker said the legislature would be a “cooperative” one, and he called King, “a good friend”. This is in sharp contrast to what Bevan-Baker called the “rancour and nastiness” seen in “other” elections.
In addition to running mean campaigns focused on fear and division,
conservative provincial leaders like premier-designate Jason Kenney of Alberta or Premier Doug Ford of Ontario oppose environmental protections, resist climate action and ignore science. Conversely, PEI’s PCs have stressed the importance of the environment, climate action and science.
As explained by the National Observer, King is a “distinctly different leader” than either Kenney or Ford. “Unlike other conservatives in the country, King has not pledged to fight the federal carbon price, and has even pledged to turn P.E.I. into a carbon-neutral society.”
As reported by Huff Post, King said the strong performance by the Greens
showed that Island voters want their politicians to work together.
“It shows that Prince Edward Island wants the parties to put
partisanship behind them … to do what’s best for Prince Edward
Island,” he said.
Based on the electoral outcome Island voters appear to believe that green leadership is what is best for them.
The PEI PC’s have woven sustainability into their constitution. Their vision focuses on providing, “a healthy economy, society, and environment allowing the capacity for all of its citizens to achieve happiness and prosperity.” They also have a socially progressive mission and they prioritize Stewardship which they define as, “passing on a natural environment to future generations that is the same or better than the one we inherited”. As explained by King: “This generation of youth is so well-informed about the effects of climate change. We have to commit to doing better—for them.”
Their policy platform states that they are “mindful of the challenges that lie ahead” including climate change which “threatens our coastlines, our crops, and the lives of future generations of Islanders.”
They are concerned about threats to PEI’s water land and air. They regard themselves as stewards of the island’s precious resources, which implies that they “understand their value and respect their fragility”.
“The state of Mother Earth speaks for itself—on a local and global scale. It is our duty to do whatever we can to offset the impact humans have had on the world,” the PC platform states. “A commitment to monitor the health of our environment is essential to ensuring necessary measures are being taken to address its evolving state….In order to mitigate any further detrimental impacts, government must put the needs of the environment first.”
The solutions proposed by the PCs include the following:
- Implement, with local environmental groups, a reforestation plan that would plant one million trees each year in environmentally-sensitive areas for the next four years $125,000
- Establish a working group in partnership with UPEI’s School of Sustainable Design Engineering and local watershed groups to undertake evaluations and make recommendations on matters affecting our bays, streams, and rivers
- Develop a solar energy rebate and electric vehicle incentive program
- Add more electric vehicles to the government fleet as replacements are required
- Work with Islanders to make a commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society. That commitment will include targets for consuming a fixed percentage of our energy from renewable sources
- Respect and restore the spirit and intent of the Lands Protection Act
- Work with Island producers to ensure compliance with three-year crop rotation under the Agriculture Crop Rotation Act
There may be a Tory minority government but the Green party will be the official opposition for the first time in any provincial legislature in Canada. After the results were announced Bevan-Baker said, “Islanders responded by granting us a record number of seats by far the most seats ever by a Green party in Canada.”
Their campaign was marred by a canoeing accident that caused the deaths of Green party candidate, Josh Underhay, and his young son. The tragic events delayed voting in the charlottetown riding and a by-election will be held within the next few months. Bevan-Baker paid hommage to Underhay and his son in his post election address.
The Greens ran on a platform that prioritized the environment and a wide range of social issues. The fact that the Greens won only two less seats than the PCs mean they may even have a shot at forming the next government. However, given the significant overlap between both parties’ platforms, the most likely scenario will be a partnership between the PCs and the Greens.