The Elections of PEI

Play episode
Hosted by


After PEI joined Confederation, it needed to proceed with its first general election in 1873.

In the April 1, 1873 election, the Conservative Party won with 15 seats. Leading the province would be James Colledge Pope, who now served as the first premier of Prince Edward Island.

The Liberals finished with 10 seats under Robert Haythorne.

Five seats were won by non-party individuals.


As the 1876 election came along, James Pope was no longer premier, having only served until Sept. 1, 1873 before he was replaced with Lemuel Owen.

Owen had spent the previous three years setting up a land commission that was responsible for using funds from the federal government to implement land reform with in the province. He also ended the system of proprietary land ownership and tenant farming on the island.

While he was successful on that front, he was not able to deal with the schools question that was dividing the province along sectarian lines. This resulted in him resigning on Aug. 15, 1876, before the election happened due to a Protestant coalition in the Legislature.

The Montreal Gazette reported,

“The writer imagines that the Catholics of the island are as ignorant as those of their neighbours, who believe that the men who in France, Italy and other countries it names, work to make the people infidel are themselves Catholics.”

In the Oct. 10, 1876 election, the Conservatives won with 15 seats again.

The Liberals under Louis Henry Davies finished with seven seats.

There were eight non-party seats won.


The Conservative were led William Wilfrid Sullivan at this point, who would hold his party together amid the growing question of the schools question.

The Montreal Gazette reported,

“The Prince Edward Island Legislature will meet about 28th instant when a strong effort will be made by the Conservatives to defeat the local government.”

The Liberals were still led by Louis Davies heading into this election. He had briefly served as premier but his party fractured due to the schools question and Sullivan was asked to form the government.

In the Feb. 4, 1879 election, the Conservatives continued their run of wins, by winning 24 seats. This was a gain of nine seats for the party and it was the first time they had a commanding majority in the Legislature.

The Liberals won six seats, down one from the previous election.


Some sources say this election happened in 1882, while others state it was 1883. I am going with 1882.

The Conservatives were led by William Wilfrid Sullivan still. With the schools question dying down, he had spent the past few years working to secure the rights of Prince Edward Island in Canada. He continually protested the federal government’s failure to fulfill its terms for Confederation.

The province had gone through a few premiers since the last election due to the issue over separate schools.

There was no leader for the Liberals in this election.

In the May 8, 1882 election, Sullivan and the Liberals lost three seats but still finished with 21.

The Liberals gained three seats, but were well back of the Conservatives with only nine seats.


The Conservatives were led, still, by William Wilfrid Sullivan, who had become the longest serving premier by this point, although that was a pretty short list to be on.

The Halifax Herald wrote,

“The Sullivan government has already been in power eight years. Their overwhelming success at the polls yesterday is therefore a most flattering certificate of their faithful administration.”

The Liberals, once again, were in disarray and had no leader to take them into the 1886 election.

In the June 30, 1886 election, the Conservatives won 18 seats, down three from the last election.

Even without a proper leader, the Liberals began to make headway, picking up three seats to finish with 12. The Conservatives still had a majority, but it was a much smaller one.


The Conservatives were still in power when 1890 came along, but they were now led by Neil McLeod. William Sullivan had left his post as premier due to being appointed to become the Chief Justice of PEI.

McLeod did not have much time before the the election. He had come to power on Nov. 13, 1889, less than a year before the election.

The most notable aspect of McLeod during this time was his support for building a tunnel that would run from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick. This never came to fruition due to the fact it was too expensive and technology to built it was not quite there yet.

Nonetheless, in the Aug. 10, 1890 election, McLeod and the Conservatives won the election but just barely with 15 seats, a decrease of three seats from the previous election.

The Victoria Daily Times wrote,

“The constitution of the island is peculiar. The Assembly is elected practically by manhood suffrage, while the council is elected by property holders only, and is regarded as the guardian of the rights of property.”

The Liberals gained three seats, finishing with 15 seats as well.

This was the first election to produce a minority government in Prince Edward Island, and would remain so until 2019.


Neil McLeod did not last long after the election of 1890. On April 17, 1891, due to losing three by-elections, he requested a dissolution of the Legislature in order to facilitate over deficit spending. This was refused by Lt. Governor Jedediah Carvell as it was believed a Motion of No Confidence was coming.

Five days later, McLeod tendered his resignation by phone. This made him the first elected official in Canada, and the Commonwealth, to resign a government over a phone call.

He was replaced by Federick Peters, who became the sixth premier of Prince Edward Island and helped the Liberal Party form government.

In 1892, Peters had put forward the Amalgamation Bill, which would abolish the Legislative Council. It also changed how elections were conducted on the island.

Now, each district elected two members. One of the two members was a councillor, while the other was an assemblyman. The Assemblyman were elected by residents over the age of 21, all male. Councilors were elected by property owners.

The Vancouver Weekly World wrote,

“Premier Peters was able to carry out the abolition of the Legislative Council. It was necessary, however, to make, in this connection, an important concession to the voters, by whom the councilors were elected, for that body, unlike in Quebec, or the Senate, was elective.”

In the Dec. 13, 1898 election, the Liberal Party finally won with 23 seats, a sharp rise from the previous election.

The Conservatives suffered a terrible collapse, finishing with only seven seats. The Conservatives had won six elections in a row to that point, but they would remain out of power now for a decade.

The Ottawa Journal wrote,

“Premier Peters given another lease of power with an overwhelming majority. The Liberals have won a big victory. It is alleged by their opponents that they gerrymandered the province shamelessly.”


The Liberal Party was now led by Alexander Warburton after Frederick McLeod resigned from his premiership to move to British Columbia.

Overall, the campaign was a quick one, with 60 candidates running for 36 ridings.

In the July 22, 1897 election, the Liberal Party won 19 seats, a drop of four seats but enough to form a majority.

The Kingston Whig-Standard wrote,

“Owing to the Prince Edward Island system of special votes and the closeness of the provincial elections it is impossible yet to give the results in three or four contests. The Liberal government, however, is sustained by a majority of at least four, the exact returns can hardly be obtained before declaration day.”

The Conservative Party won 11 seats, a rise of four seats for the party.

There were claims that the election was corrupt due to the Ottawa government giving workers for the local Liberal candidates dismissal over the employees of the railway owned by the government and those who did not pledge to vote liberal were dismissed. There were also claims of bribes in the election for people to vote for specific candidates.

The Montreal Gazette wrote,

“There have not been in Canada’s most very reputable political history any cases where these offences were more notorious than in the recent Prince Edward Island election, committed at the instance of members and agents of the Liberal government.”


Almost as soon as winning the election, Warburton resigned as premier to take a judicial appointment in August of 1897. Replacing him was Donald Farquharson. The most notable aspect of his time as premier was the passing of the Prohibition Act, which would ban alcohol in the province from 1901 to 1948.

Leading the Conservatives was Daniel Gordon. He had been a member of the Legislature almost continuously since 1866 and was well respected within the province and the Legislature.

During the election campaign, he would release a manifesto, charging that the government was decadent, with broken promises and a poor administration. He promised a revised system of taxation, a change to the public works department and a quarterly publication of accounts and economy in all departments.

The Weekly News Advertiser stated,

“He condemns the government for attempting to gain a snap verdict by appealing to the country at an unreasonable time of year.”

In the Dec. 12, 1900 election, the Liberals gained two seats to finish with 21, along with 53.5 per cent of the vote.

No one expected the Conservatives to win, with the Halifax Herald calling the election a foregone conclusion.

The Conservatives lost two seats, finishing with nine.


In 1901, Donald Farquharson left his post as premier to run for Parliament. Replacing him was Arthur Peters. During his first years as premier, he attempted to renegotiate the representation of the province in the House of Commons due to a decreasing population causing the island to lose seats. This matter would take up most of his premiership, and was not solved until after his death.

John Mathieson was the leader of the Conservatives now, having become leader in 1903. He had served as an MLA since 1900. There was a hope in the party that it would be able to win the election this time.

The Montreal Star reported,

“The Conservatives are hopeful because in the late Federal elections, they carried three out of the four island seats.”

It would go on to add,

“Although the Opposition is making great effort it is more than probably that the Peters Administration will be retained. Its management of affairs has on the whole been very satisfactory.”

In the Dec. 7, 1904 election, the Liberals won 22 seats, one more than the last election. While the party won the election, Peters nearly lost his own riding due to a tie vote between him and his opponent. A recount was done, and then a by-election, in which Peters was able to hold onto his seat.

The Conservative lost a seat, finishing with eight and handing the Liberals another majority government.

While the Conservatives lost, Mathieson would provide stability for the party and help rebuild it after several election defeats.


Sadly, Peters died in January 1908, and he was replaced quickly by Francis Haszard on Feb. 1 of that year. He had very little time to prepare for the next election, as it was fast approaching at the end of the year.

Mathieson continued to lead the Conservatives, and focused on his rebuild of the party.

The Liberals campaigned on gaining more claims for fisheries from the federal government, consolidation of debt and assisting farmers through the Department of Agriculture. The government also promised to expand the telephone system into rural areas and improve the educational system of the province.

The Conservatives promised to reorganize the agricultural department and establish an experimental farm in the province. They would also provide cheaper school books, more pay for teachers and a reform of election laws. They also promised to appoint a provincial auditor.

In the Nov. 18, 1908 election, the Liberals once again won but their majority was decreased. They won 17 seats, a drop of five seats from the previous election.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives came back with a vengeance, winning five seats and finishing with 13 seats.

The Nanaimo Daily News reported,

“Election returns indicate Conservative gains in the west and some loss in the east. The Conservatives think it about even divide. Both leaders elected.”

While the Liberals had a majority, it was a much smaller one than the party had prior to the election. The election shock was attributed to the subsidies question from the federal government, and the fact that the Liberals in Parliament voted down a motion to give the island an increase in money similar to what British Columbia received.


For the past several elections, the Liberals had been able to rule the province but it was time for a change.

The province was now led by James Palmer, who became premier on May 16, 1911 when Francis Haszard was appointed to the Prince Edward Island Supreme Court. In order to become premier, he had to resign his seat and run in a by-election. He did so but lost that election and resigned as premier on Dec. 2, 1911.

The loss of Palmer in the by-election also caused the government to lose its hold on the Legislature and John Mathieson was asked to form government.

Now the premier, the first Conservative premier in several years, Mathieson went into an election almost immediately on Jan. 3.

It is not known if Palmer led the Liberals into the election, but it was clear that the Liberals time in power was over. What is known is that Palmer did not run in the election.

By this year, it was clear that the Liberals were on the way out, with Mathieson leading the province now. The Ottawa Citizen wrote,

“There is no excitement or deep interest taken, as would be the case if the general result were at all in doubt and both parties are united in the belief that the new Mathieson government will be strongly sustained.”

While the Conservatives had six acclamations on nomination day, the Liberal opposition was seen as weak across the province.

A main topic of the campaign was a communication system with the mainland. The announcement that a car ferry service would be established from the island to the mainland by the Conservative government was greeted warmly by voters as well.

In the Jan. 3, 1912 election, the Conservatives held onto power, gaining 15 seats to finish with 28. The party also won 59.2 per cent of the popular vote, a rise of 10 per cent over the previous election. The 28 seats won by the party was the most in the island’s history to that point, and remained a record until 1935.

The Evening Mail wrote,

“For 10 years, the Liberals have been in power in this province and they remained till they became thoroughly discredited. The election today gave a clean sweep for the Mathieson government.”

The Liberals suffered a complete collapse, losing nearly all their seats, finishing with only two. John Richards, one of the two, would lead the Liberals in the Opposition.

The domination by the Conservatives surprised many. It was believed that the Conservatives would win, but it was felt that half a dozen seats would still go Liberal.

The Windsor Star wrote,

“For some weeks past the general opinion had been that the Conservatives would win, but it was still thought by many that eight or ten Liberals at least would be returned, and even the most sanguine were surprised at the vote. Such a sweep was not anticipated.”

Amazingly, this was the last election to use an open ballot in the province. The province started using the secret ballot in 1877, then rescinded it in 1879 and only reinstated it after this election.


Coming to power in 1912, John Mathieson was able to succeed where other premiers had failed when he persuaded the government in Ottawa to provide an improved annual subsidy to the province. This greatly helped the finances of the province and helped bring prosperity to the island.

After the province lost two MPs in the House of Commons due to a new census, Mathieson also convinced the federal government to guarantee that PEI would always have four MPs no matter the size of population.

The Liberals had no leader going into the election because John Richards chose not to run in the election.

The campaign was stated to be strenuous for all involved due to the secret ballot that was now used.

The use of automobiles, allowed three days a week after several years of banning on the island, was also very contentious during this election.

The Vancouver Daily World wrote,

“The government party removed the restriction and passed a law permitting automobiles to run three days a week. The temperance question was not a factor, local option prevailing.”

The Calgary Albertan echoed this, stating,

“The automobile question is a serious one. The Prince Edward Island farmers look upon the automobile as a road destroyer to begin with and a contrivance of the Evil One all the time.”

This election was expected to finish closer due to failed promises by the Conservative government and what was seen as extravagance by the party.

In the Sept. 16, 1915 election, the Conservatives under Mathieson won but they suffered a major setback by losing 11 seats in the election. They maintained their majority but just barely. The party also lost 10 per cent of the popular vote.

The Liberals were able to recover, despite not having a leader, to finish with 13 seats, 11 more than they had prior to the election.

The Montreal Gazette wrote,

“The opposition made decided gains and may control half the membership. These be upsetting times in more than international politics.”

Once the election was over, John Howatt Bell was chosen to lead the Liberal Party.


Offered the post of Chief Justice of the Prince Edward Island Supreme Court, John Mathieson resigned as premier in 1917 and he was succeeded by Aubin Arsenault. He became the first Acadian to lead the province, and in his two years as premier before the election, he repealed the legislation to restrict automobile travel on the island and founded the Prince Edward Island Travel Bureau.

John Bell had helped to rebuild the Liberal Party over the previous four years.

Now with the First World War over, Prince Edward Island was ready to look to the future in the election.

The Leader-Post wrote,

“The result of the contest will be of interest throughout Canada as indicating to some extent at least the trend of political sentiment down by the sea.”

For this election, the main issues at hand were the right for automobiles to hit the roads of the province completely, which they would after this election. There was also the concern over a dog tax that was raised from two to three dollars.

The Edmonton Journal wrote,

“It isn’t that Prince Edward Island thinks only in small terms either, for it is one of the great brain-producing corners of the continent but politics can sometimes make a lot of fuss with the brains mostly left out.”

The campaign was described by the newspapers as short but sharp, and there was a concern over the soldier vote and the uncertain elements it would bring.

In the July 24, 1919 election, John Howatt Bell took the Liberals back into power when his party picked up 24 seats, 11 more than they won in 1915.

The Vancouver Province wrote of the victory,

“Some business reasons are given for this overturn, but it may probably be reckoned as a desire for a party change. Parties have been broken up by the war less in that province than elsewhere.”

Aubin Arsenault was out of power after two years, losing 12 seats in the election, with one of their former MLAs becoming an independent.

The Vancouver Sun said,

“Dissatisfaction with the administration of the public works department, especially the neglect of roads with the administration of the agricultural department and with the proposal of the government to levy additional taxation.”


It was the Roaring Twenties and there were several big firsts to come in this election. The biggest change was that women could vote in the election after suffrage was granted in 1921.

Along with giving women the vote, John Howatt Bell had extended the road system of the province and adopted a highway improvement policy. Unfortunately, that came at the cost of a tax that hurt the popularity of the government among voters. He also dealt with a great deal of infighting in his cabinet, which hurt party unity.

The Conservatives were now led by James Stewart, who became leader in 1921. He had served in the Legislature since 1917, and was a rising star in the province.

The Winnipeg Tribune wrote,

“The expectation is that every constituency will be contested by the old parties, with perhaps five or six three-cornered fights. The Island has suffered, like other provinces, from the infliction of higher taxes. These produced the usual strong protests, particularly in rural districts.”

In the July 27, 1923 election, John Howatt Bell and the Liberals lost 19 seats, becoming the Official Opposition. Bell also lost his own riding, ending his time in the Legislature. Every cabinet minister also lost their seats in the election.

The Brantford newspaper stated,

“No particular reason has been given for the change in the opinion of the electorate. The press reports sent out indicated no particular interest in the campaign, and rather inclined to the opinion that the government would be sustained.”

The Conservatives under Stewart were able to form government, winning 25 seats, an increase of 20 seats from the previous election.

This election also saw the first organized third party in an island election when the Progressive Party ran four candidates. None were elected but the party gained two per cent of the vote.


For the previous four years, James Stewart was not able to accomplish much as the province moved through the 1920s. Prohibition continued to be a major topic for voters in the 1920s, as the province remained one of the few to still have prohibition. Stewart, for his part, opposed total prohibition of alcohol, making him unpopular among voters.

Albert Saunders led the Liberals, taking over the party in 1923. He had served as an MLA since 1915 and he supported total prohibition in the province.

The issue of prohibition was the biggest issue of the entire campaign. At the time, Prince Edward Island was called the Cradle of Prohibition in Canada. Stewart stated he would appeal to voters on the policy of government control on the sale of liquor. He stated the government control of the sales would discourage illicit traffic in alcohol. Saunders pointed to the fact that most provinces in Canada had implemented prohibition, only to repeal it after a few years. At the time, the only other dry province was Nova Scotia.

Stewart also campaigned on providing more secondary roads in the province, and increasing the funding into education.

Saunders ran his campaign advocating for an increased federal subsidy to the province, and expanding the agriculture of the province and advertising that the province’s livestock was disease free.

In the June 25, 1927 election, the Conservatives lost 19 seats in the election, becoming the Official Opposition with only six seats.

The Liberals were once again back in power, gaining 19 seats to finish with 24.


The Great Depression was beginning to reshape Canadian politics and it was bringing down governments across the country.

Prince Edward Island would be no exception.

Walter Lea now led the province, taking over as premier in 1930 after Saunders took a post on the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island. He could not have come to power at a worse time.

Leading the Conservative was still Stewart, who had lost the previous election after four years as premier. This time, the Conservatives did not campaign on prohibition, and chose to stay away from the hot button issue.

Heading into the election, some pundits were expecting a major change for the government. The Calgary Herald wrote,

“Prince Edward Island is used to sudden changes in administration and it would not be surprising if the present government is overthrown after only four years lease of power.”

That is exactly what happened.

In the Aug. 6, 1931 election, the Conservatives capitalized off how unpopular the Liberals were due to The Great Depression. The party gained 12 seats, finishing with 18 thanks.

The Liberals lost 12 seats, finishing with 12 and once again being relegated to the Official Opposition.

Conservative leaders across the country touted this reversal of fortunes for the Liberal as evidence that the Conservative Party was the right party for dealing with The Great Depression. Quebec Premier Taschereau, a Liberal, disagreed, stating,

“There were local conditions in Prince Edward Island with which I am not familiar. Quebec is now the only Liberal province in the Dominion and we will make it impregnable. Yesterday’s election in Prince Edward Island will not have any effect on Quebec, for after all, it is only a very small place.”

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett stated,

“I am very pleased with the result. It was not unwholly unexpected. Mr. Stewart is a man of large experience.”


At this point, The Great Depression was at its height. Through the previous years, Stewart had attempted to get federal assistance to help the island but he was unsuccessful. He held several cabinet positions and worked constantly to deal with the economic crisis.

Sadly, this put extra strain on him, and he died in office in 1933.

He was successful though, obtaining a larger federal subsidy from the government for the island.

Replacing Stewart was William MacMillan. As premier, he implemented relief programs and increased government spending to deal with The Depression but it was not enough to help. The country was going through a change as well. Where Quebec was the only Liberal province in the Dominion in the last election, PEI was now the only Conservative province.

Walter Lea continued to lead the Liberals and was hoping to capitalize off of the unpopularity of the Conservatives. Lea was very ill and had to coordinate most of the campaign from his bed for six weeks, and then from his home. He was only able to make one appearance during the campaign.

The July 23, 1935 election was a massive landslide for the Liberals. The party won 30 seats, every single seat in the Legislature. The party gained 18 seats from the last election in the process.

Lea said,

“The Liberals have been given an emphatic mandate to put into effect their policy of retrenchment and economy and the balancing of the budget annually, which constituted the first plank of our platform.”

The Ottawa Journal wrote,

“Students of Canadian political history were thumbing through record books last night, searching vainly for a parallel to the Prince Edward Island election which resulted in the Liberals capturing every seat.”

The 30 seats won by the Liberals was the most ever won by a party in Prince Edward Island. It remained the most seats a party ever won until 1993.

MacMillan simply said,

“The facts speak for themselves, I have nothing to say.”

As well, this was the first of only two times in Canadian history in which a party won every seat in an election. The only other time this happened was in 1987 in New Brunswick.


The stress of the election was too much for Walter Lea and he died soon after the last election in 1936. He was replaced by Thane Campbell, and he continued to deal with the impact of The Great Depression.

As premier, he organized the provincial police, passed the first law in the province governing public service and established a national park.

He chose to call the election to get the will of the people for his various programs, which included more highway paving, assisting the fishing industry, and growing the agriculture and fox farming industries in the province.

The former premier, William MacMillan, continued to lead the Conservatives and was hoping to bounce back after winning no seats in the previous election.

Of the election, the Kingston Whig-Standard stated,

“A provincial election in Prince Edward Island is not the best weather vane for political opinion throughout the Dominion. The province is too small, too isolated, too much an economic and social world in itself.”

In the May 18, 1939 election, the Liberals won their re-election bid, becoming the first government since 1915 to win two elections in a row in Prince Edward Island. They lost three seats, but still finished with 27 seats.

The Brantford newspaper wrote,

“In the contest yesterday there were no outstanding issues whatever. It was simply a fight between the rival parties for victory and the election was expected to show the trend of political feeling in the Maritime provinces.”

The Conservatives were far from winning, taking only three seats, but it was still an increase of three seats for the party.

This was the last time the Conservatives would run under that name. In 1942, they became the Progressive Conservatives.

One interesting story from this election was the tale of a woman whose husband was running against her father in the same riding. It was not known which she voted for.


As The Great Depression ended, the Second World War began and the government of the Liberals had committed themselves to organizing the province for the war effort.

On May 11, 1943, Thane Campbell was appointed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, and was replaced by John Walter Jones, who had served in the Legislature since 1935.

The Progressive Conservatives were once again led by William MacMillan, who had led the party since 1933.

This election was the first time that the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation took part in an election after forming in 1936. They did not run any candidates in the former election and in this election they ran nine candidates.

The soldier vote was an issue in this election as the 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers from the province were unable to vote in the election, representing one-fifth of the population.

The Sault Star stated,

“No wonder then that Great War veterans, and that small number of veterans of the current conflict, are calling upon the families and friends of Prince Edward Island’s disfranchised service men to rebuke the party-minded, Ottawa bossed Liberal administration.”

The reason that the votes were not counted was because there was no system in place for the province to handle the votes. The lack of soldier vote was a major election issue, and it was hammered home repeatedly by the Conservatives.

Overall, it was not expected to be a heavy ballot for the election regardless.

The Leader-Post wrote,

“Despite brevity and lack of customary tumult, the campaign has brought into the lists the largest number of candidates ever to run in an Island general election.”

In the Sept. 15, 1943 election, the Liberals won their third election in a row but lost seven seats in the process to finish with 20. This was the first time that a government won three elections in a row since the Liberals won three elections in a row in 1893, 1897 and 1900.

The Vancouver Province wrote,

“Prince Edward Island takes its politics seriously, as all the Maritime Provinces do. But it found it hard to get excited over this election. There were no issues except the return of the government, and the election fell in the middle of harvest.”

The Progressive Conservatives continued their slow climb back to relevance, winning 10 seats and still forming the Official Opposition.


The war was over and the province was ready to progress towards the post-war prosperity.

Both parties were still led by their leaders from the previous election, a rarity to that point in Prince Edward Island.

While prohibition was not repealed before the election, John Walter Jones began the process of moving the province towards ending prohibition in 1948.

This election saw the most candidates in the history of the province, with 77 candidates running for the 30 seats in the Legislature.

MacMillan pledged that if the Progressive Conservatives were elected, they would go back to the federal government to get a larger subsidy for the province. He said in a radio address,

“Everyone knows that on the basis of our minimum financial requirement the settlement which we have reached is inadequate. No one ought to know better than Premier Jones himself that this settlement will not make it possible for our province to develop its resources.”

This election was expected to be a close fight between the two parties.

In the Dec. 11, 1947 election, the Liberals won their fourth straight election, the first time that had happened in half a century in Prince Edward Island. The party was able to reverse the downward trend of its seat count by gaining four seats to finish with 24.

The Brantford newspaper wrote,

“In spite of an admittedly adverse condition created by the federal government’s unpopular excise taxes, the Liberal administration not only held but increased its majority in the Island’s Legislature.”

The Progressive Conservatives lost four seats, finishing with six, and remaining in the Official Opposition.

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation won no seats.


Walter Jones continued to lead the province, as he had for several years now, giving the Liberal Party the most success it had seen in half a century. He was hoping to bring that once again in the 1951 election.

At this point, Prince Edward Island had ended its half century of prohibition, marking the biggest change for the province under Jones’ time as premier.

The Windsor Star reported,

“It is true that the premier has given as his reason for the early date that the last of April is not a busy time for the farmers and the fishermen, and that, for this reason, a larger vote may be expected.”

The Progressive Conservatives were now led by Reginald Bell, who took over in 1950. A veteran of the Second World War, he had served in the Legislature since 1944.

Bell would call it an election of fear. He said,

“The Jones government is obviously afraid to let the public be acquainted with the facts of this mismanagement.”

The CCF was hoping to build on the success it had when it came to its share of the popular vote, amounting to about four per cent in the last election.

This election also saw the first female candidate for office in Prince Edward Island when Hilda Ramsay ran in Third Prince for the CCF.

On election day, heavy rain was falling and that caused a dip in the number of people coming out to vote.

In the April 26, 1951 election, the Liberals won another majority government, picking up 24 seats, the same as the last election.

With the election win, their fifth in a row, they joined the Conservatives of 1873 to 1890, and the Liberals of 1893 to 1908, who each won five elections in a row. To date, this was the last time in Prince Edward Island elections that a party won five elections in a row.

The Progressive Conservatives once again won six seats, forming the Official Opposition.

Unfortunately, for the CCF, they won no seats and only had 1.7 per cent of the popular vote.

This election was the last time a third party contested in an election on Prince Edward Island until 1972.


The province was moving into a new election in 1955, and Walter Jones was no longer premier of the province. He had resigned in May 1953 when he was appointed to the Canadian Senate.

Replacing him was Alex Matheson, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1940. He had served as the Minister of Health and Welfare under Jones.

Reginald Bell still led the Progressive Conservatives in the party’s quest to defeat the Liberals who had won five elections in a row to that point.

This election campaign was hard fought, with the main issues focusing on the agriculture industry of the province. The Liberals promised to get increased federal subsidies and create a ministry of labour, while the Progressive Conservatives promised good government and a low-interest loan program for new farmers.

The Ottawa Journal wrote,

“Prince Edward Island today is electing a legislature, after a mild and gentlemanly campaign which has attracted almost no attention outside the province.”

In the May 25, 1955, the Liberals gained three seats to finish with 27. This was the most seats won by a party since the Liberal Party won 30 seats in the 1935 election, beginning the run of six election wins in a row for the party.

Winning six elections in a row meant that the party joined the 1873 to 1890 Conservatives as the only time a party won six elections in a row. To date, it has never happened again.

The Progressive Conservatives fell back to three seats after losing three seats, once again forming the Official Opposition.

Their leader simply said,

“I feel that I should retire.”


It was a time for a change and while Alex Matheson still led Prince Edward Island, Walter Shaw was now the leader of the Progressive Conservatives.

Prior to the election, Shaw was not an MLA, but was chosen to lead the party on Sept. 17, 1957. From 1934 to 1954, he worked for the provincial department of agriculture, eventually becoming the deputy minister. In that role he helped found the PEI Federation of Agriculture before he became leader of the party. At the time, he was 71 years old.

The biggest issue of the campaign was a promise by the federal government to look at building a causeway that would connect the island with New Brunswick. The idea first came about in 1956 and the Progressive Conservatives were using the slogan of “The Party of the Causeway”.

The Liberals campaigned on their success since the 1955 election, stating that they had kept their election promises. They also offered to grant pensions to widows and unmarried women who were unemployed.

The Progressive Conservatives pledged to pay teacher supplements, which at the time were paid by the school districts themselves. It was expected this would cost $600,000.

In the Sept. 1, 1959 election, the Progressive Conservatives finally came back to power, winning 19 seats to finish with 22. This ended 24 straight years of Liberal rule over the province, the longest stretch in the island’s history to date. The last time the Progressive Conservatives were in power, the Great Depression was raging and the party was simply called the Conservatives.

Shaw said,

“The people just got tired of a government that had got out of touch with the needs of the province.”

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker said he couldn’t comment but he did say,

“But that doesn’t prevent me from congratulating Mr. Shaw and those associated with him.”

The Liberals under Matheson lost 19 seats, and six per cent of the popular vote, falling to eight seats and forming the Official Opposition for the first time since the early 1930s. Five ministers lost their seats as well.


Only three years after the province went through an election, it would once again go to the ballots.

Both parties still had their leaders from the last election.

Walter Shaw had brought about several changes to the province during the past three years. He expanded the province’s food processing industry, created a regional system of high schools and revamped the employment system and pay scale for civil service.

He also added that he wanted to abolish individual hospital insurance premiums and replace them with money from the provincial treasury.

Liberal Leader Alex Matheson stated that Shaw and his party were ruining the province by giving payments to their friends and failing to call tenders for all public works projects.

In the campaign, the Liberals campaigned on promising a floor price of one dollar per bag on bulk sales of potatoes. The Progressive Conservatives called this ridiculous and a simple vote-getting promise.

The Windsor Star reported,

“Patronage, potatoes and promises held the spotlight as the Prince Edward Island election campaign approached the homestretch.”

In the Dec. 10, 1962 election, the Progressive Conservatives lost three seats, finishing with 19. This election win marked the first time that the Progressive Conservatives had won two elections in a row since 1912 and 1915.

The Liberals gained three seats, but remained in the status of Official Opposition.


Walter Shaw still led the province as premier when the next election came along. At the time, the government was unable to reverse the decline in the number of family farms in the province. Shaw and his government was also not able to diversify the economy, resulting in growing unpopularity.

Many were surprised by the fact that he was running again, but Shaw simply said he would take his chances. At the time, Shaw was the oldest premier in Canada.

In order to win one riding, it made Keith Mackenzie, a Progressive Conservative candidate, the Minister of Transports and paved 30 miles of road in the district. This was very surprising to many residents in the area and one reporter stated that the riding may well sink under the weight of the paving machines.

The Fifth Queens District had also been split, breaking the tradition of each county having five ridings and ten members. This gave the city of Charlottetown two ridings and four members. This represented the biggest electoral map change to Prince Edward Island since 1893.

The property vote was also abolished in this election, which had only allowed property owners to vote in the elections since 1893.

Shaw was very confident in the election, stating,

“I think we will gain some seats.”

The Liberals were now led by Alex Campbell, who became leader on Dec. 11, 1965. He had served as an MLA since 1965 and was only 32. Among the population, he was seen as young and dynamic and a big change from the much older Shaw.

The Montreal Gazette stated,

“Blessed with good looks and a bent for oratory.”

The main issue of the campaign was wages for the workers in the province.

The Progressive Conservatives tried to make the age of Campbell an issue, stating that experience and knowledge comes with age.

Campbell said that the Progressive Conservatives only wanted to be elected and would promise,

“The sun, moon and stars as well as little fish and small potatoes.”

Both sides also offered to increase old age pensions to $100 a month from the current $75 per month.

The election was supposed to happen on May 30, 1966 but due to the sudden death of Liberal MLA William Acorn, it was delayed until July 11, 1966.

In that election, the Liberals returned to power, winning 17 seats, an increase of six from the previous election, making Alex Campbell one of the youngest premiers in Canadian history.

Campbell said,

“It may have been one of the quietest elections the island has seen but a great deal of interest has been shown by voters.”

The Progressive Conservatives won 15 seats, just short of winning, after losing four seats in the election.

Shaw said,

“Everything is in a state of confusion. The result was a great surprise.”


As the province moved into the 1970s, the young Alex Campbell began to strengthen the province’s economy and improve social conditions. His party revamped the educational system, established the PEI Heritage Foundation and provided assistance to homeowners and homebuilders.

His government also began the Land Development Corporation and the PEI Lending Authority.

The Progressive Conservatives were led by George Key, who took over on Sept. 21, 1968. At the time, he was also the mayor of Summerside but he stepped down after winning the party leadership. At the time, he was not an MLA in the Legislature by the time the 1970 election came along.

This election saw the lowering of the voting age, which created an additional ten percent into the electorate for the election.

The main issue of the campaign was a comprehensive development plan for the island from Ottawa. Both parties debated the merits of it in an effort to get votes. The Conservative stated that they would have received a better deal from Ottawa, while the Liberals said any attempt at renegotiation would roll back progress.

The plan was worth $725 million.

Key said,

“Our party is proposing a program sound enough, practical enough and financially plausible enough for the needs of farmers, fishermen, young people, laborers, businessmen and manufacturers.”

Campbell responded by saying the plan,

“Offers the people of this province the first real opportunity in years to fully participate in meaning and rewarding activity.”

Each party also blamed the other party for what was called a very dull campaign. The Conservatives stated the tone was set by the Liberals, while the Liberals said the Conservatives failed to raise any new issues.

In the May 11, 1970 election, the Liberals gained 10 seats, finishing with 27 to form a much stronger majority government than the party had in the previous election. This was also the most seats won by the party since the 1955 election.

The North Bay Nugget wrote,

“The Liberals showed last night that they have turned the tide, despite such obstacles as the cancellation of the proposed causeway to this island, the heavy rate of unemployment here and the depressed state of the island economy.”

The Progressive Conservatives won only five seats, a crushing blow after coming close to winning the 1966 election.


Heading into the 1974 election, the Liberals and Alex Campbell continued to hope to ride their popularity and remain in power.

George Key resigned in 1973 as leader of the Progressive Conservatives, and was succeeded by Melvin McQuaid. He had a great deal of political experience behind him. He had served as an MLA from 1959 to 1962, and was an MP in Parliament from 1965 to 1972.

This election also saw the first time since 1951 that a third party ran candidates when the NDP put forward several candidates in the election.

Aquinas Ryan, the leader of the NDP, said,

“Given the present mood, I think we can do well. Even one or two NDP members of the Legislature might be enough to significantly influence government policy.”

The Conservatives were promising property tax credits for homeowners, new grants to help people buy homes and increased aid for fishermen and farmers.

Prior to the election, Campbell put in a tax cut. This came only 18 hours before the election was called and it totaled $1.6 million, including a 25 per cent reduction in property taxes.

The Liberals campaigned on more aid to farmers and fishermen and creating new opportunities through grants for job creation.

Campbell was hoping to win that new term, but was concerned about the NDP, stating,

“There is an unknown factor in this election. We know they are there, we just don’t know how many.”

In the April 29, 1974 election, the Liberals won their third election in a row when the party won 26 candidates, losing only one seat.

Campbell said,

“It is a brand new government and I certainly intend to act that way. There are many things, a list as long as my arm, I want to do and want to get start on as soon as I can.”

That one seat went to the Progressive Conservatives, who won six seats in the election.


Four years after the last election, the Liberals were once again going forward with the hopes of a fourth election win for the third time in the party’s history.

Melvin McQuaid was no longer leader of the Progressive Conservatives, and was replaced with Angus MacLean on Sept. 25, 1976. MacLean brought with him a lot of experience in politics. From 1951 to 1976, he had served as an MP in Parliament, including as the Minister of Fisheries from 1957 to 1963. He was then elected to the Prince Edward Island Legislature on Nov. 8, 1976.

The budget before the election was seen as an election budget since it lowered sales tax in the province from eight to five percent, saving consumers $4.8 million in the process.

Going into the election, Liberal party members were betting $5 amongst themselves that the party would pick up 20 to 27 seats. Conservatives said they were hoping to win 22 seats.

Once again, the election campaign was described as low-key, with MacLean calling for a rural renaissance and a return to basics in education and job creation.

The Liberals had a party platform that was a call to action to strengthen the agricultural and fishing sectors and begin to move the province into the 21st century.

In the April 24, 1978 election, the Liberals barely won their fourth election in a row, winning 17 seats, a drop of nine seats from the previous election.

Campbell said,

“Islanders have a canny way of evening up the score.”

The Progressive Conservatives gained nine seats, winning 15. This was the party’s most seats since the 1966 election and represented a turning point for the party.

Maclean said,

“I am a little bit surprised. I didn’t think it would end up in virtually a stalemate.”

This election produced one of the most unstable governments in Prince Edward Island’s history and it was not long before another election came along.


After barely winning the election, Alex Campbell resigned as premier and was replaced by Bennett Campbell on Dec. 9, 1978. Upon becoming premier, he was the first Roman Catholic premier in the province’s history.

After Campbell resigned, the Legislature was in a 15-15 tie in voting members because the Speaker, Russell Perry, could not cast active votes. In order to regain the majority the party had previously, Campbell called an election.

Angus MacLean still leading the Progressive Conservatives, and he was gaining popularity heading into the election.

This campaign also saw Doreen Sark become the first female party leader running in a PEI election. She led the NDP into the election.

There was also the Draft Beer Party of PEI, led by Carl Campbell, who wanted to raise awareness to the fact that draft beer was not allowed on the island at the time.

The province’s involvement in the planned Maritime Energy Corporation became a late election issue, with the Conservatives stating they would not be involved in the plan if it involved nuclear energy. Liberal leader Campbell also backed away his support of the plan due to public pressure. He said,

“It is not all that certain at this stage that we will even sign the agreement.”

Nuclear power became the main concern of the election campaign even though there was no nuclear power on the island and there were no plans for nuclear power.

The Liberals attempted to make leadership a main issue, and MacLean stated that the Liberals had internal rot and were dishonorable.

Both parties also expressed concern over how large enterprises on the island could impact the fabric of the island’s society. Both adopted a stance against large corporations on the island. Neither party issued an election platform though.

Once again, the election campaign was called dull, but many praised the Draft Beer Party for at least bringing some levity to it.

In the April 23, 1979 election, the Progressive Conservatives came back to power with 21 seats, an increase of six seats from the previous election.

Gwen, Maclean’s wife, said,

“I am delighted with this victory. It is marvelous.”

Federal Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark said,

“There is only one Liberal government to go.”

The Liberals lost six seats, falling to the status of Official Opposition. The gambit of Bennett Campbell had failed and he became one of the shortest serving premiers in PEI history.


For the third time in four years, Prince Edward Island was heading towards another election in 1982.

In 1981, Angus MacLean had resigned from his position as premier upon the election of a new leader for the party. He was succeeded by James Lee on Nov. 17, 1981. After leading the province, MacLean went back to his farm where he redeveloped it for low-intensity blueberry farming.

The Liberals were now led by Joe Ghiz, who became the leader of the party only two weeks before Lee became the leader of his.

The NDP had no official leader, and went into the election with their interim leader David Burke.

Once becoming leader, Lee called an early election to gain a larger majority in the Legislature.

This time, high electricity costs on the island was a main campaign issue for both parties. The Liberals promised to reduce rates by half, while the Progressive Conservatives only stated they would work towards lower rates in the future.

Ghiz said,

“The power rates now are hopelessly inequitable. Industries can no longer compete here.”

Lee said,

“Now is not the time for promises, it is a time for good management.”

Lee stated that there was no money in the pot and therefore promises should not be made. That being said, Lee did promise that a new veterinary college would be built on the island, creating 250 permanent jobs and paying $7 million a year in wages.

Ghiz and the Liberals campaigned on moving into a new direction for the island’s future, but Lee criticized this stating,

“Islanders are really not asking for a new direction. They are asking for assistance with job creation. They want us to do something with their power bills.”

In the televised debate, Ghiz was on the offensive throughout, which made it difficult for Lee to counter. It gave Ghiz a great deal of press and helped bump up his numbers.

In the Sept. 27, 1982 election, the Progressive Conservatives held onto power in the province, finishing with 21 seats, the same the party had in the previous election.

The Liberals once again finished with 11, the same that party had in the previous election.

Ghiz said,

“It was too much to expect the people to turn out the government.”

The NDP lost more of the popular vote, finishing with a dismal .5 per cent of the vote and no seats. This was the lowest point in support for the party.


James Lee had led the province for the previous five years, through the 1982 election. The biggest accomplishment for his party was negotiating with the federal government to establish a school of veterinary medicine at the University of Prince Edward Island that he promised in the previous election.

Joe Ghiz still led the Liberals as the party moved into the next election after forming the Official Opposition.

The Progressive Conservatives promised a subsidized drug plan for seniors, a development fund to encourage job creation, while the Liberals mostly worked to link Lee with the unpopular Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Ghiz said,

“Brian Mulroney is not a popular politician in this province. Monday, we are going to send a very strong message.”

The PCs also campaigned on their record from the previous few years. Lee said,

“The PC team has a proven track record. Six thousand jobs in three years. That is what Islanders want to build on, they want to build on success.”

They also announced that a $650 million contract to build a low level air defence station in Prince Edward Island was in the works with the federal government.

Ghiz criticized this stating that there was no guarantee of the plant, nor the 350 jobs it was supposed to create.

Ghiz also used his speeches to relate to voters, and his own working class background, stating,

“As a boy growing up in my father’s corner store, I know that when rural Prince Edward Island does well, urban centres do well.”

Unfortunately, bigotry came up in the election because of Ghiz’s non-Caucasian background. Ghiz called it the hidden issue, stating,

“It is the ugly weed of democracy. It can never be allowed to spread unchecked in a society based on tolerance and respect for human rights and dignity.”

In the April 21, 1986 election, the Progressive Conservatives lost 10 seats, falling to 11 and becoming the Official Opposition. Lee also lost his own seat in the election, ending his time in politics.

He said,

“I am surprised. I thought myself and Wilfrid MacDonald gave good representation to the district but the voters don’t seem to agree.”

The Liberals returned to power after two election losses, and Ghiz, who was the son of a Lebanese store owner, became the first Canadian premier that was not of complete European descent.

Ghiz said,

“I think it was a vote for change. I’ve always maintained that when rural PEI does well, urban PEI does well.”


For the previous three years, Joe Ghiz had led the province and in 1988 he held a plebiscite on the question of building a fixed link from Prince Edward Island to the mainland of Canada. The issue of building a fixed link was described as the most divisive topic on the island in the latter-half of the 20th century.

Ghiz also supported the Meech Lake Accord, but opposed the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement. His participation in the debates on both topics helped bring him national exposure, greatly increasing his popularity in the province.

The Progressive Conservatives were now led by Mel Gass, who became the leader of the party on June 11, 1988.

Around this time, the federal Progressive Conservatives closed CFB Summerside, which was widely unpopular and deeply hurt the provincial Progressive Conservatives. This became the biggest issue of the campaign.

Ghiz said,

“I can assure you that after the election campaign is over with your help and support when we are back in office, that I’ll be in Ottawa with all of the homework done, negotiating on behalf of Summerside and of Prince Edward Island and I’m confident we will get an attentive ear.

The election campaign got off to a wild start when Ghiz was walking to announce the election call. As he did, a drunk man punched him after shaking his hand in the face. Ghiz said,

“The situation can happen to anyone any day of the week. It could have been worse. I could have had a black eye.”

This election seemed to be nastier than usual, which was a sign of changing times for the province and its elections.

Ghiz simply promised that the promises he made would be promises kept.

In the May 29, 1989 election, Ghiz and the Liberals surged ahead with a nine seat gain to finish with 30 seats in the Legislature. This was the most seats won by a party in the Legislature since the 30 seats won by the Liberals in the 1935 election.

Ghiz said,

“The people of PEI are obviously very happy with the government they have been receiving. I can assure all Islanders we will do all our best to deliver good, open, honest government for the next four years.”

The Progressive Conservatives lost nine seats, finishing with two seats. The two seats was the lowest the party had won since they won no seats in the 1935 election. This election also saw the party win its lowest popular vote share in its history to that point with 35.8 per cent.

Gass said,

“We did everything we could do but I think the federal budget obviously had a lot to do with it.”


After a landslide victory, Joe Ghiz led the province for the next few years, campaigning in support of concessions to Quebec in constitutional negotiations and supporting the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords.

After the Charlottetown Accord was defeated, he resigned three months later and was replaced by Catherine Callbeck. She had previously been a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993, before winning the leadership of the party. With her leadership win, she became the first female premier in Prince Edward Island history, and the second female premier in Canadian history. Two months later, the island went to the polls.

Callbeck said,

“We have to make the best use of our human resources, our natural resources. Of course, that includes more value added products. We have a lot of land on Prince Edward Island that is really not being cultivated.”

Pat Mella now led the Progressive Conservatives, after she became the leader of the party on Nov. 10, 1990.

“We’re probably in the best shape we’ve ever been for a provincial election. We’ve done a lot of reorganization, we’ve attracted a lot of new people and we have the momentum gathering.”

This election was notable for several reasons. It was the first time that two women led two major parties, and it was also the last time that Prince Edward Island used the dual-member constituencies that was put in place 100 years previous.

Mella said,

“I believe I will bring a different perspective to government because I am a woman. Yes I believe it will be a different kind of leadership.”

Despite some issues in the campaign, this election was seen as another very quiet one on the island. The Montreal Gazette wrote,

“Like a damp firecracker with a soggy fuse, the Prince Edward Island election campaign just won’t ignite.”

The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats pledged to do away with patronage on the island.

In the March 29, 1993 election, Callbeck and the Liberals won a massive landslide victory, picking up 31 seats. This win made Callbeck the first woman to lead her party to victory in a provincial election. It was also the most seats won by a party in the history of the province. That record, to date, has not been broken.

Callbeck said,

“It has been a campaign of few promises, but this evening I will promise you this, an open and a trustworthy government.”

The Progressive Conservatives won only one seat, the seat of Mella, in the election. This was the party’s worst showing since 1935, when it won no seats. This was also the low point for the party, and it would slowly rise up from the ashes of this election.

Mella said,

“I think it has something to do with the whole state the province is in and the fact that people are feeling insecure, and perhaps they were more resistant to change than normal.”


For the previous few years, Catherine Callbeck brought significant progress to Prince Edward Island with new investments in a variety of industries including information technology and aerospace. The unemployment level also reached an all-time low for the province, dropping by seven per cent.

She also began an aggressive deficit cutting strategy, one of the most aggressive in Canada, which brought in a surplus budget for the province. This was the first surplus budget for Prince Edward Island in a decade.

Callbeck also entered into a new agreement with New Brunswick on electricity, created a new waste management project that reduced waste going to landfills, reduced the number of government departments and agencies, and created a new electoral system.

The Confederation Bridge construction also started while she was in office, after being stalled for several years.

Despite all the progress that she made for the island in only three and a half years, in October 1996 she resigned as premier

Leading the party now was Keith Milligan, who had been in the Legislature since 1981.

The Progressive Conservatives were led by Pat Binns, who became leader on May 4, 1996, while the NDP were led by Herb Dickieson, who had been leader since March 1995.

This was the first election in the province’s history to use a single member election for each of its 27 districts.

In the Nov. 18, 1996 election, the Liberals fell by a whopping 23 seats, finishing with only eight. Milligan’s time as premier had only lasted for seven weeks and following this election, he remained in the Legislature until 2000.

The eight seats won by the Liberals was the lowest the party had since 1959 when they also won eight.

Milligan said,

“It was, I think, in the Island way of doing things. After three terms, they don’t want the same government for the fourth term.”

The Progressive Conservatives under Binns gained 17 seats to finish with 18, becoming the ruling party. The gain to 18 seats was the highest total for the party since 1982, the last election the party had won. This was also the first time that a party in a Prince Edward Island election had less than 50 per cent of the vote, but also won the election.

Binns said,

“People wanted a change and we were going to give them a change. We’re going to give government back to the people in this province.”

The NDP, for the first time in its history, won a seat in the election when Dickieson won his riding. This was also the first time that a party other than the Conservatives or Liberals had a seat in the Legislature.


Pat Binns still lead the Progressive Conservatives four years after the last election rewrote the electoral map of Prince Edward Island. He was hoping to bring his party to greater success and accomplish something his party had not done since 1979 and 1982, win two elections in a row.

In his first term, saw economic growth for the province, greatly boosting the popularity of Binns and the Progressive Conservatives. The Confederation Bridge had opened in 1997, greatly changing the economy of the island.

Wayne Carew now led the Liberals, having taken over as leader in 1999. He didn’t have a seat in the Legislature, but he was hoping to change that with the 2000 election.

Herb Dickieson was still the only member of the Legislature for the NDP, but like Carew, he was hoping for a breakthrough for the party.

In the April 17, 2000 election, the Progressive Conservatives won 26 seats, an increase of eight from the previous election for the party. This was a big win for the Progressive Conservatives as their 26 seats was the highest seat total for the party since 1912, when they won 28 seats.

Binns said,

“We’ve just witness the biggest electoral victory in the history of the PEI Conservative Party. I can’t tell you how this feels. It is tremendous. We wanted to increase our majority because we felt we needed the confidence of the people of PEI to move into this new millennium and we’ve been able to do that.”

The Liberals were hard hit in this election. The party lost seven seats, retaining only one. Carew was unable to hold gain a seat in the legislature, ultimately ending his time as leader of the party. The one seat the party won was the lowest point for the party before or since.

Asked how he felt, Carew said,

“Not all that great.”

As for the NDP, Dickieson lost his seat and the time for the NDP in the Legislature had come to an end. To date, the party has never regained a seat in the Legislature.


The Progressive Conservatives came into the next election on a high after their best election win in almost a century. Binns still led the party and over the previous three years had enjoyed great economic growth in the province. With an increased amount of revenue coming into the island, thanks to tourism, economic diversification and businesses investment, Binns put a lot of money into various areas.

He created the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre and the Prince County Hospital. The province’s first Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was passed, and PEI became the first province to offer waste management services to every home and business. This diverted 65 per cent of the waste of the province away from landfills, leading to the closure of several landfills. The North Cape Wind Farm was also built, making PEI a leader in environmental sustainability.

The Liberals were led by Robert Ghiz, son of the former premier Joe Ghiz. He had taken over as leader on April 5, 2003 and was looking to win a seat in the Legislature. Thanks to his major name recognition, the party was hopeful to be rebounding.

In the Sept. 29, 2003 election, the Progressive Conservatives won once again, but lost three seats to finish with 23. The election took place on the same day that two-thirds of the province was dealing with power outages due to Hurricane Juan that hit a few days previous.

The Liberals fell well short of forming government, but they did gain three seats to finish with four. Robert Ghiz also won his riding, ensuring that the Liberals had a leader in the Legislature.

Ghiz said,

“We started off well down in the polls. We ran a very good campaign but we were up against a very popular premier.”


While the Progressive Conservatives had been popular for years previous, they were suffering from sagging poll numbers over the next four years. Rising health care and energy costs, slowing tourism numbers and more put pressure on provincial finances. The public service was reduced by hundreds of people, and a cut back to the health sector.

Binns would campaign in the election on the record of the party over the previous years, especially when it came to job creation numbers.

The Liberals were still led by Robert Ghiz and heading into the election he ran on a campaign of change and promised increase funding to health care and post-secondary education.

In the May 28, 2007 election, the Progressive Conservatives lost 19 seats in the election, falling to four seats and becoming the Official Opposition for the first time in the 21st century.

Binns said,

“Robert has convinced Islanders it was time for a change, and we accept that verdict. Robert has provided strong leadership for his party. I believe he will be a good premier for Prince Edward Island.”

The Liberals gained 19 seats, and Robert Ghiz became the new premier of the province. This actually represented the second time in Prince Edward Island history that a father and son serve as premiers of the province. Thane Campbell was premier from 1936 to 1943, followed by his son Alexander Campbell from 1966 to 1978.

He said,

“We got a lot of talk about the quality of our candidates, so I’m a little surprised at the size of our majority, but I know that our candidates, all 27, were spectacular.”


The Liberals were heading into the 2011 election with some controversary dogging them. Various investments in the province had come under investigation by the RCMP, as well as Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney.

The Conservatives were led by Olive Crane, having taken over as the leader of the party on Oct. 2, 2010.

Health care was the main issue of the campaign, especially when it came to rural areas of the province.

In the Oct. 3, 2011 election, the Liberals retained their hold on leadership of the province, winning 22 seats, down two from the previous election. Three incumbent Liberal MLAs were defeated in the election though.

The Progressive Conservatives won five seats, a gain of three seats of the election.

In this election, voter turnout was below 80 per cent, which is a rarity for Prince Edward Island. Both parties also lost 1.5 per cent of the popular vote, another rarity for elections in the province.


Robert Ghiz resigned as leader of the Liberals, and as premier, on Feb. 23, 2015. At the time, issues of ethics were beginning to emerge around Ghiz, hurting the Liberal Party in polls on the island.

Replacing Ghiz was Wade MacLauchlan, who was the sole candidate to run for the leadership of the party. He was not part of the legislature and had no political experience. He had served as the president of the University of Prince Edward Island from 1999 to 2011. He was also a very well-known and respected academic on the island.

Olive Crane no longer led the Progressive Conservatives. She had resigned as the leader of the party on Dec. 5, 2012 and eight months later, was kicked out of the PC Caucus by the interim leader Steven Myers, stating she had broken promises.

Rob Lantz became the leader of the party on Feb. 28, 2015.

In the May 4, 2015 election, the Liberals lost two seats to finish with 18. The party also lost 11 per cent of the popular vote in the election but still remained as the ruling party for the third election in a row.

The Progressive Conservatives gained five seats, finishing with eight seats, well back of winning. Lantz would not win his run for the Legislature by only 24 votes, and then by 22 votes in a recount. He soon resigned as leader of the party.

The leader of the Green Party Peter Bevan-Baker, won in his riding, marking the first time that the Green Party was elected to the Legislature.

The NDP, as per usual, won no seats.


The Liberals were hoping to do something they had not done since the 1960s and 1970s, win four elections in a row. For the previous four years, Wade McLauchlan and the Liberals had dealt with several issues including the installation of new power transmission cables under the Northumberland Strait to expand on the capacity of the 40 year old cables that were in use.

The province was enjoying economic growth, and MacLauchlan a Housing Action Plan, as well as the first Water Act in the province’s history that many considered to be a model for the rest of Canada. MacLauchlan also put down a commitment to ensure the government lived in its means. His governments were able to bring in surpluses prior to the election, which helped with program funding.

Unfortunately, the Liberals were trailing in polls heading into the next election.

The Progressive Conservatives were now led by Dennis King, who became leader on Feb. 9, 2019, only a few months before the election.

In the 2019 election, the Progressive Conservatives gained five seats, finishing with 13 seats to form government. The seats won by the legislature was the lowest total by a winning party in the history of the province. It was also the first time since 1890 that the province had a minority government.

The Green Party surprised everyone by winning six more seats than the last election, finishing with eight seats in the Legislature and forming the Official Opposition. This is the first time that the Green Party formed the Official Opposition in any Legislature in Canadian history. It was also the first time that a party other than the Progressive Conservatives or Liberals formed the Official Opposition in Prince Edward Island. The Green Party also increased its share of the popular vote by a whopping 20 per cent.

The Liberals suffered badly, losing ten seats to fall to the third party in the Legislature for the first time. MacLauchlan also lost his own seat by only 100 votes.

This election also saw a referendum on political reform, asking if residents wanted to adopt a mixed-member proportional representation voting system, but this failed to pass.

Liked it? Take a second to support CraigBaird on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply

More from this show

Canadian History Ehx

Recent posts

%d bloggers like this: