Health Care

Health care, housing and leadership top issues as PEI heads toward April 3 votes

CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King called a provincial election for April 3 on Monday night, and political experts say the top issues on the campaign trail are expected to be health care, housing and leadership.

CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King called a provincial election for April 3 on Monday night, and political experts say the top issues on the campaign trail are expected to be health care, housing and leadership.

King’s majority Progressive Conservative government is seeking a second term in office following four years marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, two major post-tropical storms and an ongoing struggle to repair a deteriorating health-care system.

At dissolution, the Conservatives held 15 of the legislature’s 27 seats. The Green Party, led by Peter Bevan-Baker, had eight seats, and the Liberals under Sharon Cameron held four.

The vote in 2019 saw PEI become the first province in Canada in which the Green Party formed the official Opposition.

Political observers say the electorate doesn’t seem to be in the mood to change the government, but the campaign could prove pivotal because there are plenty of hot-button issues.

Health care

Like other provinces in Canada, PEI is facing its own health-care crisis. A growing number of Islanders are complaining about a lack of family doctors and long wait times for treatment.

During the 2019 election campaign, which brought the Progressive Conservatives to power, the incumbent Wade MacLaughlan faced with often criticism about the Liberal party’s failure to deal with the doctor shortage.

Since then, the number of residents looking for a family doctor has continued to climb, leaving the ruling party vulnerable to criticism opposition.

But the King’s government is sure to draw voters’ attention to the federal government’s recent decision to give the province $966 million over the next 10 years for health-care funding, including more than $288 million in new money.

Housing shortages

The Island’s rapidly growing population has led to a shortage of housing, but the problem is not new. PEI’s vacancy rate hit a record low in 2018, and the problem has persisted; it was 0.8 per cent last year.

King has responded by offering developers low-interest loans to increase the housing supply, but the latest data suggests development is actually slowing down.

The Green Party has focused on this issue, pointing out in January that as the government was tearing down a tent camp in Charlottetown, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation was reporting that PEI had one of the worst rental markets in the country.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s housing, health care or any other issue that matters to Islanders,” Bevan-Baker said in January. “The bottom line is this. The King Conservatives are failing to meet the challenges of the day and the expectations of the public. And the quality of life on PEI is declining because of it.”


King’s government has come under scrutiny for how it has handled a number of major challenges, including post-tropical storms in 2019 and 2022 that caused widespread damage.

At one point, Bevan-Baker called for a public inquiry to investigate the government’s response to the post-tropical storm Fiona in September 2022, but the King’s government rejected the request.

Questions have also been raised about the government’s handling of the potato industry’s struggle with the potato wart fungus, which resulted in trade bans that cost the province about $50 million in lost revenue.

And much of the government’s first term in office was defined by its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared after King had served as premier for just under a year.

“I don’t know of any government in recent history … that has had to deal with so many crises in their first terms,” ​​says Don Desserud, political science professor at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Meanwhile, King’s straight-talking, folksy style seems to have connected with the electorate. But Bevan-Baker has also proven to be an effective communicator.

As for the Liberals, leader Sharon Cameron is virtually unknown, having led the party for less than four months.

Mood of the electorate

Peter McKenna, a professor in the political science department at the University of Prince Edward Island, says Islanders don’t appear to be in the mood for a change in government.

He says there is no sense of fatigue or disillusionment with the party in power, despite the state of health care and the rising cost of living.

As well, he says the opposition Greens and Liberals don’t seem to have any momentum as the campaign gets started.

The Greens appear to be “in a holding pattern,” McKenna said. As for the Liberals, the professor says the party is practically a non-entity.

“The Liberal party has sort of faded from the political scene here,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s no longer a major political force on Prince Edward Island.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2023.

— By Hina Alam in Fredericton and Michael MacDonald in Halifax

The Canadian Press