Gail Shea facing former MLAs in race for one-time Liberal riding in P.E.I.
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on March 10, 2015. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, September 8, 2015 6:22AM EDT
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. -- Elias Hudson got in Justin Trudeau's face when the Liberal leader visited Prince Edward Island, much to the amusement of the crowd of supporters around Trudeau's campaign bus.
A seven-month-old has that effect on people.
His mother Arleigh brought her son to his and her first political rally Monday, wanting to support Trudeau after he promised hundreds of millions in new spending for veterans like Arleigh Hudson and her husband.
She's ready to vote Liberal and says she's talking to her friends and family about taking up Trudeau's torch in the lead-up to election day. In most parts of P.E.I., a Liberal win would almost be a given. Of the four seats up for grabs, the Grits hold three heading into the Oct. 19 vote.
The one seat they don't own is held by Conservative Gail Shea. And it's in that riding where Arleigh and Elias Hudson live.
"Gail Shea is a pretty good person, she's just on the wrong team," Arleigh Hudson said.
"It's going to be tight."
Egmont is one of many ridings where the story is the same: a tight race between the Conservatives and the two opposition parties, with the Liberals and NDP hoping they don't split the vote and allow the Tories to take the riding.
No surprise then that Trudeau's first stop on his first trip to P.E.I. this campaign was to Egmont and a rally with about 300 supporters and all four Liberal candidates, the current and former Liberal premiers, and even New Brunswick Liberal incumbent Dominic LeBlanc -- all done to fire up the local campaign team that some supporters suggested needed some energy to take down Shea.
Shea, a former provincial cabinet minister, first won Egmont by 55 votes in 2008 after nearly three decades of Liberal control. She cruised to re-election in 2011, outpacing the second-place Liberal candidate by 4,400 votes. Her two wins have led to cabinet postings as fisheries minister and the minister in charge of the Canada Revenue Agency.
"At the time, people wanted change and here's the direction they wanted to go in," said Darlene Morrissey, whose brother Bobby Morrissey is the former provincial Liberal MLA tapped by the Grits to take on Shea.
"She promised a lot that she never followed through on and she forgot who put her in Ottawa."
Complicating matters for the Liberals is that the NDP candidate in the riding, Herb Dickieson, is the former provincial leader of the NDP and a one-time MLA.
"So it could split," said John Shakespeare from his perch on the rooftop patio of the Silver Fox Yacht club where Trudeau held his rally.
"I mean, that's the trouble with the first-past-the-post system, obviously. If we didn't have that, if we had proportional representation, this wouldn't happen. But it could very well happen here."
It's for that reason that Dawna Bowles was talking about the need to dissuade people from strategic voting, possibly siding with the NDP if the polls continue to put Tom Mulcair's party in the lead.
"They need to educate themselves with the platforms of the different parties and really make educated decisions, not just go where the masses are going, but follow things and see what's happening," Bowles said.
Supporters argued the time to pay attention to poll results starts now as more voters are tuning into the campaign and talking politics with family and friends.
"The first couple of weeks, they don't count," said local Liberal campaign volunteer Audrey Callaghan. "People are just getting around to talking. No big issues yet."