CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - This year marks the 100th anniversary of the last independent MLA being elected on P.E.I.
West Royalty-Springvale MLA Bush Dumville is hoping this will be the year he repeats the feat of John Dewar who, in 1919, won his seat after running under the loose banner of the “Independent Farmers of P.E.I.”
But Dumville also believes that Islanders are ready to elect multiple independent candidates. He says he has already recruited several.
"I think the timing is right," he said.
Dumville left P.E.I.’s Liberal party and caucus almost a year ago, following a disputed election of executives for his West Royalty-Springvale riding association. Last February, Dumville told The Guardian he believed his favoured candidate for president of the association was defeated by another candidate backed by party leaders.
The trouble had not started there. Dumville believed Liberal leaders backed another candidate, Windsor Wight, who ran against him for the Liberal nomination in his district in 2015. Wight is currently the Liberal nominee in the new district of Brackley-Hunter River.
Dumville, who resigned from the Liberal caucus on Jan. 31, 2018, believes the culture of political parties has had a fundamental chilling effect on P.E.I.’s democratic process.
"The Liberals have been very arrogant. The Conservatives are dysfunctional, waiting for their turn to be arrogant,” Dumville said.
“The Green party, they're having their own problems now. The party's getting a bit more noticed, they've put discipline in their nomination process.”
Dumville says internal party decisions has left voters feeling increasingly alienated from their political representatives.
The independent MLA, who plans to run in the new district of Charlottetown-West Royalty, said he has commitments from several prospective independent candidates, although he did not reveal how many.
He acknowledged there have are considerable barriers to entry for independents.
"A lot of it, it's government favours. I've had some people that want to run as independents. They're all enthusiastic and then went home and discussed it with their wives. Basically, their wives were employed with government. So, they backed down," Dumville said.
Still, he hopes a full slate of 27 candidates could run across the Island.
Dumville has developed a banner for independent candidates – Consensus Prince Edward Island – and has developed a design for a door-hanger leaflet. Candidates may co-ordinate fundraising efforts but will be expected to put in $1,000 of their own money for their campaign.
There is no firm platform, and the name would not be registered as a political party. Independent candidates may meet and co-ordinate efforts in the run-up to the election, but no formal decision-making process has been established.
"What I'm doing is a consensus movement, not a party. All it is, is an umbrella, a logo," Dumville said.
The result could be a crowded field of candidates. The Green party has seen its appeal broaden, while the Progressive Conservatives are hoping for a bump in popularity after they name a new leader in February. The Liberals hope to run on the strength of a strong economy, while the NDP under leader Joe Byrne has been quietly rebuilding.
But Dumville says he is not worried about splitting the vote. He believes he – not the Green party — could be the main beneficiary of frustrated voters.
"I'm probably their worst enemy right now," Dumville said of the Greens.