Prince Edward Island’s incumbent agriculture minister and lead opposition critic both held onto their seats in Tuesday’s election but will return to a much different legislative assembly.
Dennis King’s opposition Progressive Conservatives captured 12 of 26 available districts to win a minority government. Peter Bevan-Baker’s Greens move up into official opposition with eight seats and Wade MacLauchlan’s incumbent Liberals drop to third party status with six.
A 27th district, in Charlottetown, will go to a byelection after Green candidate Josh Underhay’s death last week.
Colin LaVie, the Tories’ incumbent critic for agriculture and fisheries, easily held his district of Souris-Elmira by a spread of 486 votes over Liberal contender Tommy Kickham.
LaVie, an MLA since 2011, is a Souris-based lobster fisherman by profession but has served on the legislature’s standing committee on agriculture and fisheries.
LaVie had served as ag and forestry critic up until 2015, when MacLauchlan’s Liberal government split the agriculture and forestry ministry and instead moved agriculture into a new agriculture and fisheries ministry. LaVie since then has handled the ag and fisheries file for the Tories’ shadow cabinet.
The Liberals’ incumbent agriculture minister, potato and cattle producer Robert Henderson, also held his district of O’Leary-Inverness by a spread of 209 votes over New Democrat contender Herb Dickieson.
King — a communications strategist and consultant, also known in ag circles as former editor of the Island Farmer newspaper — promised in the Tories’ pre-election platform to “separate the departments for agriculture and fisheries to provide each industry with better representation.”
The Tories also pledged to develop and implement a “P.E.I. Food First” strategy to increase the use of locally-grown food in public institutions, and to “cross-promote” Island tourism and Island produce.
The party’s platform also promises an expansion of the provincial marked diesel program “to allow farmers to access marked diesel for more farm-plated vehicles and equipment.”
For young farmers and other young entrepreneurs and fishers, the Tories propose a program of interest-free loans, up to a maximum of $200,000 “to assist them with business start-up.”
The party also proposed to set up a farmland bank, to buy farmland and lease it to Island farmers. — Glacier FarmMedia Network