By Sam Midkiff
Results of the Charlottetown riding in the 2019 federal election (photo credits: CBC)
What an election 2019 provided! From back face pictures, to fake news allegations, manufactured resumes, and one candidate being told to “cut off his turban to look more Canadian,” this could easily be argued as a rather nasty campaign. For the Leaders, at least. Here in Charlottetown, we saw a rather civilised campaign: beyond the “we trusted you” signs put up by the Campbell office, the four candidate scan be celebrated for ensuring a civilised campaign and debates in their bid for votes in this city. And although this may be a couple weeks late, I’ve decided to provide an analysis of the electoral results from the Island’s Capital riding.
The Charlottetown riding has voted in a Liberal MP since 1988, at which time the riding was called Hillsborough. So to see Sean Casey elected for another term may come as little surprise to most. No doubt, Casey is a relatively well-known candidate and he possessed the Incumbent Advantage; an advantage rooted in familiarity and previous results provided an initial insight into election results.
That said though, the election numbers reveal a surprise that can be read between the lines.
First, let’s look at Sean Casey. Casey, like many Liberal candidates of the 2015 election, rode a wave of popularity created by Justin Trudeau, a wave that dissipated 4 years later and consequently saw many Liberal incumbents booted from office. Yet Casey still retained the lions share of the riding’s votes, just not as many as before. That said, he still secured a greater share of votes than he did in 2011 where he won 39.5%. This election witnessed voters give Casey another 4-year mandate to represent the Island’s capital, albeit with a smaller vote share than in the last election: 44.2% this election as opposed to 56.3% in 2015.
Next, let’s look at the Liberal’s most prominent opponent: The Conservatives. The Tory candidate for Charlottetown, Robert Campbell, secured a far greater share than his previous Tory candidate had in 2015: up from 14.8% to 20.4%. It wouldn’t be too outlandish to suggest that Campbell secured a number of centrist voters disenchanted with Trudeau’s government. However, the Campbell office did perform one action that likely discouraged potential voters by installing the “We Trusted You” signs below the Casey signs, of which at least one of the allegations on the sign was proven to be misleading. Besides this issue, the Tories managed to secure a larger share of votes than they had in 2015 but fell quite short of their 2011 share of 32.7%.
The NDP performed rather poorly this election, but this could be blamed directly on the Greens (see below). Their vote share dropped from 25.1% in 2011 to 23.1% in 2015, and plummeted to 11.4% in this election: unfortunately, their worst performance in recent memory. That said, the NDP fought at an inherent disadvantage: they initially did not have a candidate and relegated to bringing back Joe Bryne, a man who had sworn off politics after 2015, due to this vacancy and had hit the pavement much later than their competitors. On top of that, they lacked a permanent headquarters, working out of an RV in an ingenious approach of a “mobile headquarters.” With all of this said, the NDP worked hard and in that they deserve some solid recognition for their late, but still determined, campaign.
The single greatest surprise from this election came from the Greens and their candidate Darcie Lanthier. Almost every single Atlantic Canadian riding has swapped between the Conservatives and the Liberals with the exception of St. John’s East. But here in Charlottetown, the Greens bucked that trend to the expense of a number of NDP and Liberal votes. The Greens rocketed up from a mere 5.8% of the vote in 2015 to an astounding 23.2%, coming in as the second most popular choice in the riding. For Charlottetown, this is the first election that a party other than the Liberals or Conservatives took second place, and it is in part reflected by the concerted effort of Lanthier, the Green’s candidate for the riding, to rally the left-leaning vote as well as the environmentally conscious population of the City.
The Party itself put in immense investment, both financial and human capital, in trying to swing this Green-friendly riding in favour of their party. And although an outside glance may look at their failure to secure the seat as a loss, the simple fact that they overturned the electoral tradition is a success in itself. Many Green Party supporters have echoed this: that the past election, though not what they were hoping for, was nonetheless a significant victory for a party long associated more with the Pacific Coast rather than the Atlantic.
As for the People’s Party, well, they fielded no candidate for Charlottetown and as such not much can be said.
This past election provided an expected victory alongside a significant surprise: The Liberals handily won the riding but now have a serious opponent in the Green Party. However, all 4 participating parties have much to be proud of in their well-done campaigns. What may happen in the future, well, we’ll have to wait and see.