Resigning premier sparks new interest in Island politics

By Kayla Fraser
Nov. 17, 2014

For Don Desserud, P.E.I. politics just became very, very interesting.
Premier Robert Ghiz announced his resignation on Nov. 13 and Desserud, a political science professor at UPEI, said this makes P.E.I. politics fascinating for months to come.
Losing someone of Ghiz’s stature and experience is going to be a problem and he has left some big shoes to fill, Dessurud said.
“With Ghiz going and with the Liberals now, they have an uncertain future. We don’t know who is going to take over that party.”
Ronnie McPhee agrees.
The president of the Young Liberals of Prince Edward Island said the resignation puts the political landscape on P.E.I. in a spin.
“Ghiz resigning really changes every party’s game plan going into the next election.”
There may be new hype for the Conservative party too, he said.
“What is interesting about this leadership, compared to our last one and the PCs, is that our leadership convention will not only label our new leader, but the province’s new premier. So all political parties, and all Islanders, will have interest.”
Desserud said the Conservatives may have an advantage now in the next election.
“This makes the leadership of the Conservative party far more attractive than it was before.
“Now we’re looking at that prospect very differently. We see all the possibilities, you never know. The Liberals may win again, the Conservatives may have a win next time around. That’s interesting, so that game is now very different and there is more excitement surrounding that party.”
Ironically, this can also make the Liberal party and the premier’s position just as attractive, he said.
“Ghiz was a positive input of the party and he’s leaving the party in very good shape. Therefore, anyone who aspires to that position is really putting their name in to be premier of the province, and probably premier of the province after the next election, or at least that’s what the Liberals believe.”
The Liberal party is gearing up for whatever is next.
McPhee said the party is aiming for a convention in either January or February 2015.
“We will be seeing different campaign teams work the province from tip-to-tip to gain supporters for the convention, and then we will vote on a new leader.”
Jamie MacPhail is the executive director of the Liberal Party of P.E.I. It is a time for renewal and refreshing, he said.
“We look forward however to the leadership convention and a leadership process that will revitalize our membership and bring a new chapter to the Liberal party of P.E.I.”
When Ghiz decides when the convention will be held, the party will move from there, he said.
“We’re in the process of organizing and in a couple of coming weeks, we will be setting a date and timelines, both for that leadership and the deadlines the candidates will need to be in.”
Desserud said after the convention is held, there will be a new Liberal leader. Ghiz will stay in office until his new successor is chosen, then will formally resign.
“The lieutenant-governor will then appoint the new Liberal leader as the premier of the province. And then that person will actually decide whether they want to go into a quick election right away, or stick to the dates that have already been decided for next September.”
A spring election is a possibility, he said.
MacPhail said either way, the party is looking forward to a time of renewal.
“We are very thankful and honoured to have premier Ghiz serve us for 12 years and as our premier for eight.”
This leadership will be one for the ages, McPhee said.
“We were all in shock on the announcement, but our party is in a great position to maintain our lead in the polls, and a rejuvenated voice, and new ideas can only make us stronger.”