Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/4/2015 (2044 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It was supposed to be an election about the usual pocketbook issues -- jobs, tax breaks, better health care, cheaper drugs for seniors. It has turned into some nasty disputes over attack ads, integrity in government and access to abortion.
When Prince Edward Island voters go to the polls May 4 they will likely hand the ruling Liberals a third term in office. But the party's comfortable majority -- it entered the campaign holding 20 of 27 seats in the legislature -- appears certain to evaporate.
The Liberals have a new leader and premier, former University of Prince Edward Island president Wade MacLauchlan, and some baggage left over from the administration of former premier Robert Ghiz.
Ghiz's sudden resignation late last year threw Island politics into a tailspin. MacLauchlan, the only candidate who came forward to succeed him, assumed office in February and called a snap election. With strong polling numbers and the opposition Progressive Conservatives in the midst of a leadership race of their own, a Liberal victory seemed preordained.
But government integrity and accountability have taken centre stage. The province is being sued for $25 million in damages after a failed initiative to make the Island a centre for electronic banking and online gaming. Questions linger about the role Liberal insiders may have played not only in this affair, but in an earlier program to encourage immigrants to invest in local businesses.
MacLauchlan, a 60-year-old newcomer to politics, has distanced himself from these controversies with a raft of initiatives to improve transparency and strengthen conflict-of-interest rules. But this has not stopped his Tory opponents from launching what MacLauchlan describes as "bullying... Harper-style" attacks ads on the government's credibility.
PC leader Rob Lantz makes no apologies for the ads, or for hammering away at the Ghiz government's record. If elected, the 45-year-old former Charlottetown city councillor (who won the leadership only days after MacLauchlan took office) promises to set up a royal commission to investigate allegations swirling around the immigration program and e-gaming file.
Justin Trudeau dropped in last week for a day of campaigning that was supposed to boost Liberal fortunes. The federal leader drew the expected crowds -- and some unwanted headlines. Catholic Church officials cancelled events slated for two parish venues, citing a policy of avoiding any appearance of political favouritism.
The move, however, was widely seen as a swipe at Trudeau's pro-choice stance. It also highlighted the fact that no Island hospital or clinic will perform an abortion, forcing women to travel to other provinces for the procedure.
Whether these controversies will sway voters remains to be seen. Tiny P.E.I. gets scant attention from polling firms but the latest survey, released by Corporate Research Associates in March, gave the Liberals a commanding lead. Almost six in 10 respondents who have made up their minds backed the governing party, compared to 26 per cent for the Progressive Conservatives, who went into the election holding just three ridings.
Island elections are two-party races. Only one New Democrat has been elected to the provincial legislature, and that was almost two decades ago. The NDP's share of the decided vote was 12 per cent in the latest poll while the Green Party stood at four per cent.
But the poll's fine print suggests the Liberals are on shaky ground. A third of respondents were undecided and less than half were satisfied with the government's performance. A sample size of just 300 and a margin of error of almost six per cent add to the uncertainty.
The election will come down to whether voters want to punish MacLauchlan and the Liberals for the alleged sins of the Ghiz administration. The party's decisive edge in the pre-election poll suggests they will give the new premier a chance to make amends and move the Island forward.
There's one thing MacLauchlan can count on if he wins next month -- a rough ride from his revitalized Progressive Conservative opponents.
Dean Jobb is the author of Empire of Deception, the untold story of a 1920s Chicago swindler who escaped to a new life in Canada.