CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —
In a close race, Angus Birt defeated former leadership candidate Shawn Driscoll in a Progressive Conservative nomination contest on Monday night.
Birt won the majority of the 105 votes cast in the Charlottetown-West Royalty nomination vote, held at the West Royalty Community Centre.
Birt has volunteered with the PC Party for several years, door-knocking in election campaigns with former PC candidate Bobby MacMillan and former premier Pat Binns. Professionally, he has been a guest service agent for Air Canada for over 30 years.
Driscoll, who ran against Dennis King during February’s PC leadership convention, had previously worked as a policy advisor with former Egmont MP Gail Shea.
“It was a tight run. I had a great opponent. He put up a good fight,” Birt said.
“Shawn was a good candidate. I hope he sticks around, he’s got a future ahead of him.”
Driscoll told The Guardian the difference between the two candidates was only three votes.
“Angus is a good guy. He’s been around the party. At the end of the day, it’s about votes, and he got three more votes than me,” Driscoll said.
Birt is a first-time candidate but said he had been considering a run for office for some time. A conversation with former premier Pat Binns earlier this year helped convince him to run.
He said health care and housing issues loom the largest as issues he hopes to change.
“If you go back to the Robert Ghiz government, his biggest platform when he got elected was ‘I’ll have a doctor for anyone in the province.’ That didn’t happen,” Birt said.
“The other thing is, affordable housing is huge.”
Birt said he was encouraged by a recent poll that showed a nine-point increase in public support for the PCs. He will face Liberal candidate Gord McNeilly, Green candidate Gavin Hall and independent candidate Bush Dumville in Charlottetown-West Royalty.
An opinion poll released by Corporate Research Associates last week showed the PC Party polling ahead of the Liberals, but nine percentage points below the Greens. The same poll showed PC Leader Dennis King as the preferred premier of only 15 per cent of decided voters, lower than 20 per cent who preferred premier Wade MacLauchlan and 37 per cent who preferred Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker.
Driscoll was critical of King during the leadership contest. In a letter to PC party president Charles Blue last November, Driscoll raised concerns that King could be perceived as a “backroom” candidate by voters.
Aside from Sarah Stewart-Clark, who was already nominated in Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park prior to running for leader, and King himself, Driscoll was the only leadership candidate to put his name forward as a candidate for the party.
Neither Allan Dale nor Kevin Arsenault, who garnered the second and third highest number of votes after King, have so far announced plans to stand as candidates.
Elsewhere in P.E.I., PC nomination candidate Darren Creamer announced in an e-mail to PC Party members that he would be withdrawing from the nomination contest in Stanhope-Marshfield.
A statement attributed to Creamer said he had seen a “strong groundswell of support” for dairy farmer Bloyce Thompson.
“It has also become clear to me that Bloyce will win the nomination and be the next MLA for District 8, Stanhope – Marshfield and I will be removing myself from the nomination process,” Creamer said in the statement.
Thompson announced his intention to seek the nomination in February. Creamer had announced his intention to seek the nomination last June. Creamer declined to comment publicly to The Guardian about his reasons for withdrawing.
The Liberal Party of P.E.I. has also been busily nominating candidates. Since the beginning of March, the party has nominated three candidates – Ian MacPherson in Belfast-Murray, David Dunphy in Stratford-Keppoch and Sonny Gallant in Evangeline-Miscouche.