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Politics still hot topic despite approach of summer

Alan Mulholland, of Summerside, has put his name forward as a candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I.
Alan Mulholland, of Summerside, has put his name forward as a candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I.

Summer may be just around the corner but there is still plenty happening on political scene in Canada's smallest province.

The Progressive Conservatives now officially have a horse race for the party leadership convention Oct. 20, with the entry of Rustico-Emerald MLA Brad Trivers into the race. He joins retired Summerside businessman Alan Mulholland. Several others are also thinking of joining the race, including Stratford-Kinlock MLA James Aylward and Belfast-Murray River MLA Darlene Comptton, who were both in the last leadership race.

With all due respect to Mr. Mullholland (or anybody else from the outside the current eight person caucus), the Progressive Conservatives need a leader who currently has the initials MLA after his or her name. With the exception of a brief period in the spring of 2015, when Rob Lantz  was campaigning in the provincial election, the Conservatives have not had a leader who speaks for them both inside and outside the legislature since 2013. They need somebody who is the acknowledged leader both in public and in the legislature.

That is especially important since, with each passing quarterly Corporate Research Associates poll, the next election is looking more and more winnable. The Liberals, who will be seeking a fourth term in office in 2019, currently still lead the choices with Island electorate at 38 per cent. Just a year ago, the party was the choice of 64 per cent of those asked, as well as a drop of 10 points from the February poll

The Conservatives are up seven points to sit at 26 per cent -0 tied with the Green Party who remained unchanged from the February poll. The New Democrats increased from seven to 10 per cent. Green Party Leader Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker remains the most popular leader at 37 per cent, followed by the Premier Wade MacLauchlan at 24 per cent, interim Conservative leader Jamie Fox at 15 per cent at NDP Leader Mike Redmond at six per cent.

It marks the first time in almost a decade the Liberals at below the 40 per cent mark in the quarterly poll. Having been in office since 2007, some of that can perhaps be expected. However, the government's handling of several hot button issues, most notably the education file, is certainly a major factor.

Even though the government has overruled a decision by the Public Schools Branch to close Georgetown and St Jean's schools and has added more teachers, they still face considerable criticism for their technique. The school review process was allowed to run its course, including a fiery meeting in Stratford in April, when the final report was presented. That led to the resignation of Pat Mella as a director, when the report was overturned the next day.

The majority of the new teachers have been allocated to urban areas, which is sure to widen the growing urban/rural divide that surfaces with growing frequency during debates on everything from electoral reform to  allocating infrastructure projects.

- Andy Walker is an Island-based journalist and commentator

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