Greens bigger surprise than victor

Published on October 18, 2016

For most, there was little surprise as the results of Monday’s provincial byelection in District 21 – Summerside-Wilmot rolled in.

As we know today, Liberal Chris Palmer held the seat for Premier Wade MacLauchlan and the Liberal Party following the resignation in August of MLA Janice Sherry.

That the governing Liberal Party kept the seat was expected, we would suggest. Liberal roots in P.E.I. run deep, the party, despite a few somewhat recent scandals – namely e-gaming and PNP – seems to be riding high in every recent public poll since MacLauchlan took over; and the fact that people like having their representative in the provincial legislature on the side holding all the cards comes as a shock to no one.

Palmer captured 978 votes, or 42.3 per cent of the votes cast. Ramsay, who lost to Liberal incumbent Janice Sherry by just 30 votes in the last provincial election (1,135 to 1,105), received 720 votes this time around.

Ramsay’s numbers may have dipped when compared to his rival this time, but his percentage of the popular vote rose from 28.59 to 31.2 per cent on Monday.

But here’s where we get to what some might consider the real surprise of the night: Green Party candidate Lynne Lund nearly doubled her party’s support in the district when compared to the previous provincial general election. She captured 506 votes or 21.9 per cent of the popular vote – less than 10 per cent behind the Conservatives.

For his part NDP candidate Scott Gaudet grabbed a disappointing 107 votes, down from the 353 he earned for the party in 2015.

But back to the Greens. Sure the party didn’t capture the seat or elect its second MLA to the legislature, but one could argue they have served notice to the other parties and to Islanders – they are not going quietly and have, at least in the eyes of 22ish per cent of the voters in this district, something to offer the province.

So pleased with the third place results was federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May that she issued a statement.

Said May: “Prince Edward Islanders understand Greens represent real, principled, grassroots change in their province.”

That may be, but before we see any significant change to the number of Greens and NDP members in the P.E.I. legislature, Islanders will have to vote overwhelmingly to change course during next month’s provincial plebiscite on electoral reform.

It’s a point not lost on May who added: “…Greens are now working hard to educate voters on the upcoming plebiscite to update the province’s electoral system. From Oct. 29 to Nov. 7, I urge all P.E.I. voters to lead the country in choosing a system of proportional representation. It’s time to update our voting system in P.E.I. and across Canada.”

She’s right. The world has changed since our system was created. It’s about time we did too.