Talk of spring election growing in Prince Edward Island: political scientist

Don Desserud, a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island, poses in this undated handout photo. The Prince Edward Island government will hand down its 2018 budget Friday, amid what one observer says are growing signs of an early provincial election call this spring. Don Desserud, a professor of political science at UPEI, says Premier Wade MacLauchlan may be tempted to call a May or early June election while the Island's economy is relatively strong and before the opposition parties have additional time to fully prepare. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - UPEI Photography, Mike Needham

CHARLOTTETOWN - The Prince Edward Island government will table its 2018 budget Friday, amid what one observer says are growing signs of an early provincial election call.

Don Desserud, a professor of political science at UPEI, said Premier Wade MacLauchlan may be tempted to call an election for May or early June while the Island's economy is relatively strong and before the opposition parties have additional time to fully prepare.

He also cited documents obtained by CBC News suggesting Liberal riding associations are preparing for a possible spring election.

The public broadcaster reported that the documents make reference to the premier's chief of staff wanting election committees at the district level to be ready by May.

The next election is set for October 2019 under provincial legislation, but the government is free to call an election when it pleases.

"The economic indicators are looking good, at least the government keeps telling us they are," Desserud said in an interview Thursday.

He said MacLauchlan's government has distributed advertising materials with the slogan, "P.E.I. economy on a tear."

The materials point to the Island having the highest economic growth among the Atlantic provinces between 2012 to 2017, and a rate of population growth that has matched Ontario's.

The rising fortunes of the Green Party in Charlottetown are also a factor in the election timing, Desserud said.

"There's concerns, given the Liberals have been in power for 10 years, that there could be a shifting of support away from them and enough perhaps to give the Greens sufficient seats to force a minority situation," he said.

The Green Party won a recent byelection in Charlottetown, with the Tories placing third, giving the opposition party two seats in the legislature.

"There's a concern that if they (the Liberals) wait longer, the Greens will get stronger and stronger," said Desserud.

The government will present its budget on Friday, however there are recent precedents in Atlantic Canada of provincial elections being called before budgets are passed or legislative sessions concluded.

In Nova Scotia, the Liberals tabled their budget last April 27 and a few days later called a May 30 election that the party went on to win with a slim majority.

A spokeswoman for the P.E.I. premier's office did not respond to a request for comment.

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax.

Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.


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