The outcome of the P.E.I election on May 4 has been hard to predict considering a scandal involving the current governing Liberals is fresh in voters’ minds and the rookie leadership of all political parties. None of the four political party leaders vying to become the Island’s next premier have won a seat in provincial government.
P.E.I. has only once elected a member to their Legislative Assembly from outside the two dominant political parties — the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. Popular Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker may double that number on Monday night. The dentist, writer, musician and public speaker is polling first in his riding of Kellys Cross/Cumberland.
The Liberal lead has been diminishing since Rob Lantz, a Charlottetown city councillor, was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative party on Feb. 28.
P.E.I. plagued by scandals, but all parties promise “accountability”
Wade MacLauclan, former president of the University of P.E.I. and P.E.I. Premier since Feb. 23, spent his first week as Premier dealing with a scandal that involved the secret and failed attempt of the former Robert Ghiz government to earn millions in revenue through regulating online gambling.
The Auditor General has also raised concerns that Crown-lending agencies were channelling millions in loans to private companies without cabinet approval or public disclosure.
Another ongoing scandal for the Liberals involves the provincial nominee program, where local companies took millions of dollars from immigrants in exchange for permanent residency.
All parties, including the Liberals, are promising greater accountability and transparency.
The Conservatives, NDP and Green Party have promised a public inquiry into the online gaming and provincial nominee program matters, and to enhance the reach of freedom of information legislation.
Anti-poverty advocates are not happy with the governing Liberals for failing the Island’s poor by not spending the millions of dollars allocated in the budget for services for the poor. Over one in four children on the Island are “food insecure,” according to a 2013 report on food insecurity in Canada. NDP leader Mike Redmond has promised a school lunch program to address the problem of children going to school hungry.
Greens and NDP promise clinical abortion services for P.E.I.
P.E.I. is the only province without abortion services. The Green Party and NDP have promised to bring clinical abortion services to the island, if elected.
Islanders must travel to Halifax or Moncton to have the procedure done in a hospital or to Fredericton where they must pay to access clinical services. Those seeking a hospital or clinical abortion are responsible for their own travel costs.
Dr. Colleen MacQuarrie, Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology at UPEI, is angry that the two parties that have held the balance of power for decades since the Morgentaler decision have failed to provide abortion services for the province’s residents. The Morgentaler decision was a 1988 Supreme Court of Canada decision that overturned Canada’s criminal abortion law, allowing the right to an abortion.
MacQuarrie’s research has documented extensive evidence about the impact of P.E.I.’s abortion policies on women’s health. “The lack of safe access to surgical abortion services harms women’s health, but these harms are not distributed evenly. Poorer, younger, more marginalized women bear the brunt of access barriers,” notes MacQuarrie.
“Both the Green Party and the NDP have committed to repatriating abortion care while the Liberals have paid mild lip-service; they will streamline the process for off-Island access. Liberals have decided this is a good political compromise with little regard for the evidence,” says MacQuarrie.
MacQuarrie argues that a local abortion service would not only provide better health care, it would save the province approximately $37,000 per year. The PCs have repeatedly stated abortion care is not a priority for their party.
Looking forward to a return of a third party
This election is shaping up to be extraordinary, where controversial issues like abortion are being discussed with positive results and people contemplate whether the election of a third party member will make provincial politics more interesting and transparent as it has done with the recent election of Green Party Leader David Coon in New Brunswick.
Coon, the Fredericton South MLA, has managed to raise a number of issues of importance to New Brunswickers in the Legislature, including reproductive rights, local food security and opposition to what has been described as a JD Irving plan for the province’s public forest. Coon, like Bevan-Baker, frequently holds community meetings to discuss local issues, and he regularly communicates to his electorate on what is transpiring in the legislature through blogs, videos and newsletters.
What will happen in the P.E.I. election? Stay tuned for election results and analysis from rabble.
Tracy Glynn is a member of Reproductive Justice NB’s Political Action Committee and a writer for the NB Media Co-op.
Photo: flickr/ Jamie McCaffrey