Dennis King will return for a second term as premier of Prince Edward Island after his Progressive Conservatives won 22 seats for a commanding victory in Monday’s provincial election.
The Liberals won three seats and will form the Official Opposition, while the Greens fell to third-party status with just two MLAs.
Voter turnout was a record low of 68.5 per cent of the province’s roughly 109,587 registered voters, according to Elections P.E.I.
That’s down from the 77.66 per cent seen in 2019, which represented the most votes ever cast in Island history at 83,185, and a sharp drop from the more than 80 per cent turnout that has historically defined Prince Edward Island as a model of political engagement among Canadian provinces.
The PCs saw considerable vote gains across the province with 55.9 per cent of the popular vote. That was about 19 points more than their share in the 2019 election, and is reminiscent of the PCs’ win in 2000, when then-premier Pat Binns led the party to a strong majority with 58 per cent of the vote.
The largest gains for the party came in the cities of Summerside and Charlottetown, where the popular vote grow by more than 27 percentage points and 19 percentage points respectively.
‘Positive politics alive and well’ on P.E.I.
King watched early results in his Brackley-Hunter River district before travelling to the Delta Hotel in downtown Charlottetown to meet supporters and caucus members to celebrate the resounding victory.
“Anything exciting going on on P.E.I. tonight or what?” King said as the crowd of hundreds cheered.
“My friends, we should make no mistake… Island voters tonight rendered a verdict and they rendered it loudly and they rendered it clearly. And that verdict is that positive politics is alive and well on Prince Edward Island.”
King said his Progressive Conservatives put Islanders “at the heart” of every decision they made since earning a minority government in 2019, which turned into a slim majority after two byelection wins.
He noted that they shouldered tremendous responsibility, steering P.E.I. through years of troubled waters in the form of a pandemic and crisis after crisis.
King called Monday’s vote an endorsement by Prince Edward Islanders that they felt the PCs should continue leading the province in the years ahead.
Tonight we party; tonight we celebrate. But tomorrow we get back to work rebuilding this province and making it the best place to live.— PC Leader Dennis King
“I’m humbled tonight and I’m proud,” he said. “I’m just a kid from a big family in a small town. When I grew up, the premier didn’t come from places like Georgetown Royalty — but by God, he comes from Georgetown Royalty tonight!”
King thanked his campaign co-chairs Sydney Gallant and former Conservative MP for Egmont Gail Shea.
He also thanked the Green, Liberal and NDP leaders for running “sincere” political campaigns.
“Peter [Bevan-Baker of the Greens] and I have been through this before, but for Michelle [Neill of the NDP] and Sharon [Cameron of the Liberals], this was the first time for them as party leaders, and it was a great opportunity for me to get to know them,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for them.”
Looking ahead at the challenges facing his majority government, King said his party wants a “brighter future” on Prince Edward Island — and that begins with addressing health care, housing, climate change and cost-of-living problems first and foremost.
“We’re ready to move this province forward. We’re ready to lead and continue to lead with humility and with kindness. We’re ready to work day and night to ensure that we have the best days that lie ahead of us,” King said.
“My friends, we haven’t shied away from challenges over the last four years and we’re certainly not going to shy away from them for the next four years.
“Tonight we party; tonight we celebrate. But tomorrow we get back to work rebuilding this province and making it the best place to live.”
Green leader speaks of ‘difficult night’
District 17: New Haven-Rocky Point was one of the races to watch as the votes started to come in.
Throughout the evening it seesawed between PC candidate Donalda Docherty and Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, before the Green leader was finally projected to win shortly after 8:30 p.m.
The victory was bittersweet. Only he and Karla Bernard will return to the legislature as other Green incumbents fell. Back in 2019, Bevan-Baker’s party formed the Official Opposition with eight seats, the first provincial Green caucus in Canada to do so.
The Greens saw their popular vote share drop to about 21.6 per cent (16,134 votes) compared to the party’s 30.6 per cent in 2019 (25,302 votes).
Bevan-Baker spoke to reporters after embracing his family and hugging his baby grandson Freddy.
“This is a difficult night for us — and let’s not pretend otherwise,” he said. “I’m most sad about losing some tremendous colleagues with whom I’ve worked over the last four years.
“Sad for them, sad for their constituents, sad for the legislature … I will miss them tremendously.”
This is a difficult night for us — and let’s not pretend otherwise.— Peter Bevan-Baker
Bevan-Baker said he was proud of everything his party had accomplished over the last term. He said the PCs will face some of the biggest issues in the Island’s history, such as a collapsing health-care system and a crushing housing crisis.
And he said the Greens will “be there every step of the way, holding [King’s] feet to the fire, because Islanders cannot afford another four years of inaction.”
On whether he’d stay on as leader, Bevan-Baker said he will be thinking about his future and will have news to share about that in the “near future.”
Liberals back as number 2, though leader has no seat
Liberal Leader Sharon Cameron spoke to the media and her supporters around 9:25 p.m., saying she’s happy the party is back as Official Opposition, though it dropped from four seats to three and saw its vote share settle at 17.2 per cent (12,876 votes), compared to 29.4 per cent in 2019 (24,346).
“To each and every one of you and from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much. It’s fair to say this is not the night we hoped for when the campaign began,” she said.
“But going into this election, we all knew it was going to be really, really hard. And you know what? That didn’t stop a wonderful slate of candidates and hundreds of Islanders from working so hard on our Liberal campaign and putting health care first.
I hope to God the PCs use our platform. I hope to God.— Sharon Cameron
“I hope to God the PCs use our platform. I hope to God.”
Cameron said it was a highlight of her life to be at the helm of the Liberal campaign in 2023, adding that she was proud of the 25 candidates the Liberals put forward across P.E.I.’s 27 districts.
She congratulated Hal Perry, Gord McNeilly and Robert Henderson on their re-election, to a room of applause.
“And guess what guys? You’re now Official Opposition,” she said with a laugh. “That’s awesome. I wish you well as you lead our province in the coming years.”
Cameron said it was a very disappointing night overall, but in four months since she’s been leader the party managed to rebuild significantly, improved finances and more.
She didn’t make a decision Monday evening regarding her future as party leader, but said she was “going to be a pain in the ass” in some form to hold the PCs accountable in government.
PCs’ popular vote share near 56%
King and members of his cabinet were the first to pick up their districts. King won in District 15: Brackley-Hunter River, and Matthew MacKay was the first to be projected as elected, running away with the vote in District 20: Kensington-Malpeque.
Other PC cabinet ministers Natalie Jameson, Steven Myers, Cory Deagle, Bloyce Thompson, Darlene Compton, Jamie Fox and Ernie Hudson were also re-elected.
Some of the projected PC gains came at the expense of the Green Party, which placed second in 18 districts.
The Progressive Conservatives flipped several districts including:
- District 5: Mermaid-Stratford, which was Green MLA Michele Beaton’s seat.
- District 11: Charlottetown-Belvedere, formerly Green MLA Hannah Bell’s seat.
- District 13: Charlottetown-Brighton, which was held by Ole Hammarlund, who didn’t win his own party’s nomination race.
- District 21: Summerside-Wilmot, which had belonged to Green MLA Lynne Lund.
- District 22: Summerside-South Drive, which was occupied by Green MLA Steve Howard.
- District 23: Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke, which was Green MLA Trish Altass’s seat.
The PCs also won in District 24: Evangeline-Miscouche, which had belonged to Liberal Sonny Gallant. Gallant was a former interim leader of the Liberals who chose not to re-offer.
When the P.E.I. legislature was dissolved in early March, the Progressive Conservatives had 15 seats; the Greens had eight; the Liberals had four seats; and the NDP and Island Party had none.
Concession from NDP Leader
NDP Leader Michelle Neill spoke to her supporters at 8:20 p.m., shortly after she was projected to lose personally in District 13: Charlottetown-Brighton, and her party was projected to be shut out of the legislature once more.
“You all inspire me,” she told supporters, saying she had just called the leaders of the other parties to thank them for a well-run campaign. “We are a party of everyday people trying to make life better for Islanders.”
She went on to promise the government “won’t get a pass” because the NDP has no members in the legislature.
“Even if we’re not in the legislature, that doesn’t mean our voice won’t be heard,” Neill said.