By Andrew Macdonald
Joe Byrne won the PEI NDP Leadership Saturday at the Murphy Community Centre in Charlotteown winning 123 votes of the 215 votes cast.
His strong showing reflected his experience as past federal candidate in Charlottetown and his strong community engagement.
He has a strong background in community organization, international development, and public outreach through his past work as student organizer, working in Dominican Republic with LAMP in community development and social justice and working with youth.
His current position with PEI Association for Newcomers, PEI’s main immigrant settlement agency rounds out many years of work at the grassroots. He brings many skills and talents to his new position being trilingual in English, French and Spanish.
He won over two strong female candidates Susan MacVittie who formerly worked for NDP federal MP Gary Johns from BC and Margaret Andrade who ran for NDP federally in Ontario in the last election. Although both moved to PEI in recent years. They both enlivened the race as they participated in debates across PEI leading up to leadership convention.
On the same day Liberals on PEI were meeting in Cornwall where Premier Wade MacLauchlan put the rumours of a spring election to rest but his remarks to party faithful revealed that a fall election is definitely a strong possibility as he urged members to organize in the new districts and nominate candidates and get out there and participate in the strawberry social circuit over the summer.
The Green Party are doing very well in the polls and they are just off their byelection upset win in a riding formerly held by liberal cabinet minister Doug Currie.
The greens ascendence under charismatic and engaging leader Peter Bevan Baker, who won a seat in legislature in last provincial election are a challenge for Byrne as he rebuilds the party now in fourth place.
Many Islanders support electoral reform which is on ballot in the referendum in the next provincial election and many folk want a more progressive and inclusive legislature at work hope that the Greens and NDP can find ways to work together to ensure that the old line parties, both the Liberals and Conservatives learn to work with representatives of all Islanders on the House and the House reflects how islanders vote.
There have been many loop sided majorities elected since the 27 single member legislature replaced the old dual member riding system due to a successful charter of rights challenge.
The NDP had their AGM in afternoon and elected new members of their executive and passsed policy resolutions in anticipation of next election. A highlight of the leadership convention was a speech by federal leader Jagmeet Singh who talked about electoral reform and congratulated Islanders on the successful 2016 plebiscite despite the fact that it was first time in island history that a plebiscite vote was not honoured.
He spoke about need for high speed internet across PEI, an issue where provincial liberals under Ghiz saw a failure despite payments to Bell Aliant.
The federal NDP leader also of needed restoration of EI changes as promised by Trudeau in last federal election but which he failed to deliver and the disastrous and divisive two EI zone legacy of past Harper cabinet minister Gail Shea put in place in a failed attempt to save her political skin.