The days of two-horse races may be over for P.E.I. after the Greens made political history Tuesday.
The Green party surged to eight confirmed seats in P.E.I.’s legislature, marking the first time the party has ever formed the province’s official Opposition.
While many party supporters and national media watched results unfold at the P.E.I. Brewing Company, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker viewed the election privately at his home.
As results came in, it didn’t take long for Bevan-Baker to get re-elected.
Hannah Bell won shortly after, and momentum quickly began to favour the Greens to overtake the Liberals in the race for seats.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Bevan-Baker as results showed nine projected Green seats.
After getting elected as P.E.I.’s first Green MLA four years ago, followed by the second with Bell’s win during a 2017 byelection, Bevan-Baker said Tuesday showed the changing nature of P.E.I. politics.
“It’s clearly changed… I think the days of the two-horse races are clearly over on P.E.I.,” said Bevan-Baker. “This is our first (P.E.I.) election with three strong parties.”
After his win, Bevan-Baker first stopped by his campaign headquarters in Crapaud, where a group of about 25 supporters and party volunteers watched results come in. Although polls favoured the Greens ahead of both the PCs and Liberals, it was clear many were excited just to see the party increase its seats.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker reacts to the election results:
Party volunteer Anne MacKay said she was excited and not surprised by the results.
“I was hearing this around the countryside,” she said. “I felt it was building, but you don’t take anything for granted, you have to work for every vote.”
MacKay, who resides in Bevan-Baker’s district, said while she always voted she had never been a party supporter until meeting the Green leader.
“When Peter was elected, I liked his style and personality and ethics and his ability to speak to people,” she said. “Then sometime later I decided, for the first time in my life, to support a political party.”
Supporter Asha Blake said she was feeling good about the results.
She said she liked the Greens because the candidates were unlike typical politicians.
“They really have good beliefs and they’re here for the people.”
Bevan-Baker later went to the Brewing Company, where a major celebration was underway.
While Bevan-Baker and Bell were strong contenders for re-election, the party also saw some unexpected upsets.
Karla Bernard took a decisive victory in District 12 Charlottetown-Victoria, which was previously held by longtime Liberal cabinet minister Richard Brown. Other candidates included well-known Charlottetown police officer Tim Keizer running for the PCs and NDP Leader Joe Byrne.
While she said it felt surreal, Bernard said she was thrilled about the opportunity ahead.
“This is so historic, and I feel so proud,” said Bernard, a school counsellor who has been a member of the party for about three years.
She recalled how the party has grown since then, with the party earning the highest Green seat count ever in a Canadian election.
“It’s just kept growing and growing, and I think it’s something to be proud of.”
Bernard said Bell winning the 2017 byelection was crucial to the party’s success Tuesday. She said the combination of Bevan-Baker and Bell in the legislature showed “a real alternative” to P.E.I.’s usual politics.
“They say when Greens get elected, they stay elected,” she said.
Despite the celebration, the win was also bittersweet following the death of District 9 Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park candidate Josh Underhay and his young son, Oliver, Friday.
“It really put into perspective what’s important,” said Bernard. “Josh was right there with us the whole time. And he’s here with us tonight.”
Bevan-Baker said the party was devastated by the tragedy.
“We carried on. We knew this election had to go ahead and we pulled ourselves together with the support of everybody around and with the blessing of Josh’s family,” he told The Guardian. “I’m so proud of the team and how we’re working through that.”
Later, during an emotional speech to supporters at the P.E.I. Brewing Company, Bevan-Baker spoke highly of Underhay and said he had never been “as overwhelmed with both joy and grief simultaneously”.
“My heart is so full, but it’s also breaking,” said Bevan-Baker, noting he met Underhay through music. “Josh has been a companion on my political journey for many years, and his absence this evening leaves an emptiness that just cannot be filled.”