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 the lieutenant governor and the premier reside, and the provincial legislature, and cabinet are located.

Political History

Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name. The island is part of Mi'kma'ki, the lands of the Mi'kmaq people. Explored by Europeans in the 16th Century, the French claimed all of the lands of the Maritimes in 1604 and French colonists arrived in 1720. By conquest, the British claimed all of the lands including Prince Edward Island in 1763. It became the British colony of St. John Island in 1769 and joined the Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1873.

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.

Electoral history

The Two-party era (1873–1996)

Election date Win. Total
Conservative[A] Liberal NDP[B] Green Other
Seats Vote
Seats Vote
Seats Vote
Seats Vote
Seats Vote
Seat-winning party
1873 April 1, 1873 CON 30 15 [C] 10 [C] 5 Non-partisan
1876 August 10, 1876 CON 30 15 [C] 7 [C] 8 Non-partisan
1879 April 2, 1879 CON 30 24 [C] 6 [C]
1882 May 8, 1882 CON 30 21 [C] 9 [C]
1886 June 30, 1886 CON 30 18 [C] 12 [C]
1890 January 30, 1890 CON 30 15[D] [C] 15[D] [C]
1893 December 13, 1893 LIB 30 7 [C] 23 [C]
1897 July 28, 1897 LIB 30 11 [C] 19 [C]
1900 December 12, 1900 LIB 30 9 46.5 21 53.5
1904 December 7, 1904 LIB 30 8 45.9 22 54.1
1908 November 18, 1908 LIB 30 13 48.4 17 51.6
1912 January 3, 1912 CON 30 28 60.3 2 39.7
1915 September 16, 1915 CON 30 17 50.1 13 49.9
1919 July 24, 1919 LIB 30 6 46.1 24 53.9
1923 July 26, 1923 CON 30 25 51.5 5 43.8 4.7[E]
1927 June 25, 1927 LIB 30 6 46.9 24 53.1
1931 August 6, 1931 CON 30 18 51.7 12 48.3
1935 July 23, 1935 LIB 30 42.0 30 58.0
1939 May 18, 1939 LIB 30 4 47.0 26 53.0
1943 September 15, 1943 LIB 30 10 46.1 20 51.3 2.1 0.5
1947 December 11, 1947 LIB 30 6 45.8 24 49.8 4.3 0.1
1951 April 26, 1951 LIB 30 6 46.7 24 51.6 1.7
1955 May 25, 1955 LIB 30 3 45.0 27 55.0
1959 September 1, 1959 PC 30 22 50.9 8 49.1
1962 December 10, 1962 PC 30 19 50.6 11 49.4
1966 May 30, 1966 LIB 32 15 49.5 17 50.5
1970 May 11, 1970 LIB 32 5 41.7 27 58.3
1974 April 29, 1974 LIB 32 6 40.2 26 53.9 5.9
1978 April 24, 1978 LIB 32 15 48.2 17 50.7 1.1
1979 April 23, 1979 PC 32 21 53.2 11 45.3 1.3 0.2
1982 September 27, 1982 PC 32 21 53.6 11 45.7 0.7
1986 April 21, 1986 LIB 32 11 45.6 21 50.4 4.0
1989 May 29, 1989 LIB 32 2 35.8 30 60.7 3.5
1993 March 29, 1993 LIB 32 1 39.5 31 55.1 5.4

The Post-Two party era (1996–present)

Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island (1996–2019) - seats won by party
Government PC Liberal PC
Progressive Conservative18262345813[vote]
New Democratic1


A Includes results for Progressive Conservatives from 1942 onwards.
B Includes results for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation from 1943 to 1951.
C Vote share not known for the elections in the 19th century.
D Tie between Conservatives and Liberals, resulting in the incumbent Conservatives remaining in power until losing a motion of confidence in 1891 after a series of by-election losses and the Liberals taking power for the remainder of the term.
E Includes 3.4% for the Progressive Party / United Farmers.
F Extended election for vacant seat held July 15, 2019 due to the death of original Green Party candidate before the election on April 23, 2019.

Political parties

Prince Edward Island used to have the purest two-party system of any level of government in Canada until both 1996 and 2015 elections. Since joining the Canadian Confederation in 1873, the province 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). Third Party candidates have held a total of three seats during that time. In the Prince Edward Island 1996 election, Herb Dickieson of the Island New Democrats was the elected member for West Point-Bloomfield. He served from 1996 to 2000. The next third party candidate to earn a seat in the provincial legislature was in the 2015 election when Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island, was elected in the riding of Kellys Cross-Cumberland. In a 2017 by–election PEI Green Party member Hannah Bell was elected from Charlottetown-Parkdale, marking the first time in Prince Edward Island's politics that two third party candidates had held seats in the legislature.

In the 2019 election, however, the Green Party became the new official opposition party, while the Liberals became the new third party. Thus its two-party system finally ended to become a semi-two party system.

Political parties are registered in the province, under Section 24 of the Election Act.[1][2]

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. In October 2011, "The Progressive Conservatives boosted their seat count from two to five," out of 27.[3] Due to a floor crossing on October 3, 2013 followed the next day by an expulsion of an MLA, the seat total fell to three. The party won 8 seats in the 2015 election to expand its seats as the official opposition. The party won 12 seats in the 2019 election, to become the first minority government since 1893.

The Green Party

The Green Party of Prince Edward Island was founded in 2005, and ran in the 2007 election for the first time. The party received a larger proportion of the total vote than the NDP during the 2007 provincial election. It currently holds two seats in the legislature.

In July 2012, the Green Party of PEI Leader and co-founder, Sharon Labchuk resigned.[4] Darcie Lanthier served as interim leader[5] until November 2012.[6] At the Leadership Convention in Charlottetown, 3 November 2012, the Green Party of Prince Edward Island elected Peter Bevan-Baker as leader. Bevan-Baker was elected to the Legislature in 2015, joined by Hannah Bell in a 2017 by–election. In the 2019 election, they surpassed the Liberal Party by both seat size and popular vote to become the province's Official Opposition party, as they gained an additional six more seats from the Liberal Party.

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 was forms the government, after a victory in 2007 until 2019.[7] In October 2011, the Liberal Party lost two seats, but retained 22 out of 27 seats in the Legislature.[3] The seat total was 23 from October 3, 2013 following a floor crossing, until February 23, 2015 due to three MLA resignations, thus reducing to 20. The party dropped to 18 seats in the 2015 election. Then in 2017 due to a resignation (and loss in subsequent by-election), followed by a floor crossing in 2018, the party dropped to 16 seats. And even did worst in the 2019 election as the Green Party and less so the Progressive Conservative Party, took a majority of all their seats, which reduced the Liberals to 6 seats. This rendered the Liberals as the province's third party for the first time in their history.

The New Democratic Party

The New Democratic Party of Prince Edward Island, 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 in its history, usually performing poorly in general elections and finishing behind the other parties. The party often finishes third in each riding, though in 2000 Dr. Dickieson, the sitting MLA, finished second, and in 1947, a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (precursor to the NDP) 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. Joe Byrne has been party leader since April 7, 2018.

Political culture

PEI has been called the closest thing to a direct democracy in Canada.[8] 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.

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).

In 2010, some PEI politicians express concerns that eliminating the "long form" census will form a less detailed picture of PEI, and thus hurt the island's population by way of reduced Confederation programs. Politicians expressing worry about these developments included MP Shawn Murphy(Liberal-Charlottetown) and P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan (also a Liberal).[9]


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 Senate of Canada, and a corresponding minimum of four seats in the House of Commons of Canada. This results in PEI being considerably overrepresented in the current House, as six of Canada's ten provinces are to varying degrees.

Currently as of April 2019, PEI is regarded as a stronghold for the Liberal Party of Canada, having been represented exclusively by Liberal Members of Parliament from 1988 until 2008. In 2006, it was one of only two provinces (the other being Alberta) to give more than 50 percent 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. In 2008, Gail Shea became the first conservative MP from PEI since 1988.

See also


  1. Registered Political Parties at Elections PEI. Accessed July 23, 2012.
  2. PEI Election Law at Elections PEI. Accessed July 23, 2012.
  3. Moore, Oliver (October 3, 2011). "Election Day: Ghiz's Liberals secure second straight majority in PEI". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  4. Wright, Teresa (12 July 2012). "Labchuk steps down as Green Party leader". Charlottetown: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2012-07-15. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  5. "Press Release:Green Party Leader Sharon Labchuk Steps Down". July 12, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  6. Wright, Teresa (17 July 2012). "Green Party of P.E.I. appoints interim leader". Charlottetown: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  7. "CBC.ca – Prince Edward Island Votes 2007". CBC News.
  8. Driscoll, Fred (Summer 1988). "History and Politics of Prince Edward Island". Canadian Parliamentary Review. 11 (2): 2–14.
  9. "Census changes worry some P.E.I. politicians". CBC News. July 15, 2010. Retrieved July 23, 2012.

General information

Political parties

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