Politics of Prince Edward Island


Politics of Prince Edward Island

The politics of Prince Edward Island are centred on a provincial government resembling that of the other Canadian provinces. The capital of the province of Prince Edward Island is Charlottetown, where reside the premier, provincial legislature, lieutenant-governor and cabinet.

The Legislature

Prince Edward Island's government is based on the Westminster model, with a unicameral legislature — the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island —consisting of 27 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), elected from 27 roughly equal electoral districts using plurality voting. The legislature may sit for a maximum of five years, as is customary in the Westminster system, and may be dissolved at any time by the lieutenant-governor, normally on the advice of the premier. By custom, the provincial Cabinet (which currently has ten members) is drawn exclusively from the Legislative Assembly, and must secure the support of a majority of the Assembly's members.

Political parties

Prince Edward Island has the purest two-party system of any level of government in Canada. Since joining Confederation in 1873, it has been governed at intervals by the Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island and the Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island (which has gone by other names in the past). In the Island's entire history, only one MLA has ever been elected from a third party; Herb Dickieson served a single term as the Island New Democrats Member for West Point-Bloomfield from 1996 to 2000.

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island, founded in 1873, is a fully incorporated wing of the Liberal Party of Canada. It has governed frequently, including several notable stretches from 1891 to 1911 and 1935 to 1959. It currently forms the government, after a victory in 2007.

The Progressive Conservative Party

The Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island, founded in 1873, was a fully incorporated wing of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (and its antecedents) until the federal party was disbanded in 2003. It is not formally a part of the new Conservative Party of Canada, but the two organizations share members, and most senior provincial officials have openly stated support for the federal party. It has governed frequently, most recently from 1996-2007. The party is strongly of the Red Tory political tradition.

The Green Party

The Green Party of Prince Edward Island was founded in 2005, and ran in the 2007 election for the first time. They beat out the NDP in terms of total number of votes during the 2007 provincial election. They are currently unrepresented in the legislature.

The New Democratic Party

The Island New Democrats, founded in 1962, are a fully incorporated wing of the New Democratic Party of Canada. While nominally included as one of the Island's three major political parties, it has elected only one member (once) in its whole history, and always finishes an extremely poor third to the other parties. The party usually finishes third in each riding, though in 2000 Dr. Dickieson, the sitting MLA, finished second, and in 1947, a CCF candidate finished second in a riding with a Conservative candidate who had been thrown out of the party. The New Democrats are currently unrepresented in the legislature.

Political culture

PEI has been called the closest thing to a direct democracy that exists in North America. Because of its small population (135,851 residents, as of the 2006 Canadian census) and sizable legislature, each MLA represents, at most, approximately 5,000 people. Ridings, especially urban ones, tend to be quite small. The result of this is that almost everyone knows their MLA personally, or through a friend or colleague. Provincial elections on PEI make next to no use of television and radio advertising, and are instead fought house-to-house, since tiny districts make it realistically possible to visit almost every constituent while campaigning.

Voter turnout on Prince Edward Island is the highest for any jurisdiction in North America above the municipal level. For example, the 2003 election occurred on the day after Hurricane Juan struck, knocking out power to much of the Island and felling trees, but turnout was higher than 80%. Turnout for federal elections tends to be somewhat lower than turnout for provincial elections. Because of the small districts, even a handful of votes can swing a district. In 2003, three MLAs were elected with victory margins of less than 100 votes, and only two with margins of more than 1000 votes.

Many political scientists believe that the Island's two primary political parties have few real differences in philosophy, preferring to hug the political centre. While the differences between parties is often minimal, Island politics is characterized by extreme partisanship, and a high degree of personal identification with a political party. More than this is the case in any other province, political affiliation is related to a family's traditional affiliation. This strong traditional element is one of the reasons given for the NDP's lack of success.

Patronage is a strong element of traditional Island politics, and has been a widely accepted practice for generations. Recent political discrimination rulings based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms have put this longstanding tradition into question, however, and it remains to be seen what will happen the next time there is a change of government (traditionally, hundreds of supporters of the old government would lose their jobs).

Issues

Because of the highly centrist trend that characterizes both major parties, elections are rarely fought on wildly contrasting platforms, and instead on a collection of local issues. Recently, a prominent issue has been the continued operation of the Island's five rural hospitals, which is increasingly questioned by the growing urban population.

Prince Edward Island is dependent on federal equalization payments for much of its budget. The economy is heavily based on agriculture, the fishery, and tourism, with no natural resources or heavy industry (although light manufacturing of avionics parts is growing in importance). The provincial government often has a budgetary deficit, given the lack of local revenues and dependency on federal funds. The continued maintenance of traditional industries is often debated, as well as the need to diversify the province's economy.

Overview of federal politics

Under the Canadian Constitution, Prince Edward Island is entitled to four seats in the Canadian Senate, and a corresponding minimum of four seats in the Canadian House of Commons. This results in PEI being considerably overrepresented in the current House, as seven of Canada's ten provinces are to varying degrees.

Currently, PEI is regarded as a stronghold for the Liberal Party of Canada, having been represented exclusively by Liberal Members of Parliament since 1988; a non-Liberal MP has not been elected since 1984. In 2006, it was one of only two provinces (the other being Alberta) to give more than 50% of its votes to a single party. Much of this can be attributed to the total collapse and eventual demise of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which had previously been the stronger of PEI's two competing political parties for much of the 20th century. The Reform Party/Canadian Alliance rejected Red Toryism, and the Conservative Party of Canada has yet to be accepted as a legitimate heir to the old Progressive Conservatives. The federal New Democratic Party has never attracted much support on PEI, although it is more successful than its provincial counterpart.

ee also

*Politics of Canada
*Political culture of Canada
*Council of the Federation
*Political parties of Prince Edward Island
*List of Prince Edward Island general elections (post-Confederation)
*Premier of Prince Edward Island (list)
*Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island
*Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island


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