Let the games begin …. in April 2020

Canada just came off our best winter Olympics ever, with 29 medals. And right afterwards we got to enjoy watching Islander Mark Arendz in the Paralympics win six medals for Canada and have the honour of carrying the Maple Leaf Flag into the closing ceremonies. The winter Olympics only happen once every four years, and perhaps their infrequency is a big part of the reason that so many people - even those who don’t typically get excited about sports - become so caught up in the whole thing.

We already know when and where the next games will be – in Beijing, China from the 4th to the 22nd of February 2022 – and no doubt plans are already being made and training strategies drawn up with an eye on those dates.

There is another event that also comes in four-year cycles – provincial elections. And because, like the winter Olympics, we have fixed election dates, we already know when our next election will be. Or do we?

What if the host country of the Olympic games was to decide that if it was in their interest to suddenly and without warning move the date of the event to give their own athletes an upper hand. There’d be an uproar. Other athletes who were training with a particular date in mind, trying to peak at exactly the right moment would be totally thrown off. Support teams would suddenly find themselves scrambling to put together people, money and resources. Ordinary folks who might have planned a trip to China around the Games would be justifiably upset.

The next provincial election on PEI is scheduled for October 2019, but because that will coincide with the next federal election (also on a fixed date), the law says that it will move 6 months later, to happen in April 2020. That seems clear enough. It is the law after all.

But the rumblings in the political air on PEI, and some ambiguous statements by our premier, suggest that it may not roll out quite that way.

Here’s what Premier MacLauchlan said in a year end interview a few months back when pressed on the issue of the date of our next election: “What I will say, and have said, is that this will be done in terms of and in a way that is consistent with the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, which is that Prince Edward Islanders should have a great general election at a time when they can best express their views.” And the gold medal for a convoluted answer goes to …..

One thing that saddens me about politics and elections is how much like a sporting event they have become. It seems that the primary (some may say exclusive) goal, of so many involved is simply to win, with little emphasis being placed on what they might do once they assume office. Polls and focus groups and anemic platforms have all but eliminated any discernible difference between the two old Parties on PEI. It’s all about beating your opponent using whatever means are available to you. As the Guardian editorial on March 10th stated: “The goal of any politician or party is to get elected.  Going to the polls early would draw criticism, but likely won’t be enough to stop the Liberals from doing what’s best for premier and party.”

Some commentators have suggested that I am pressing for an early election, but I can assure you that the Island Green Party believes that everyone, even the Premier, must respect the rule of law. All parties deserve a predictable schedule so that we can plan around the certainty of our fixed election date legislation.

I think we all know that only one person gets to choose when our next election will be, and he is not sitting in the benches of the Third Party caucus.