How quickly time flies. A year ago Wade MacLauchlan was the fresh face of Island politics, now on many days he looks like the captain of a ship with a very tired crew. But this time of year is all about rejuvenation, renewal and recognition. So with that spirit in mind we offer a few honours for naughty and nice behaviour over the past year.
Most Improved MLA – Robert Henderson, or Rob25 as he calls himself, is an able debater in the legislature but has in the past presented a dishevelled appearance. No more. His tie is always properly knotted and the gum chewing often caught on camera appears a thing of the past.
Most In Need of A Shuffle – Doug Currie was charged with ‘reforming’ PEI’s beleaguered education system. What he delivered is nothing more than a shuffling of the deck. Same people, different job titles. Then he and his senior bureaucrats called a press conference to release results of international PISA tests. It was full of glowing praise for the great job they are doing, including from Island students. But the minister hid a vital detail. Our improved results were attributable to PEI having the highest exemption rate in the world. That’s right ... the world. We excluded more students from taking the test than every Canadian province and all 72 countries that participate in PISA. It took less than 24 hours for government’s deception to be caught. Our goal should be the best education system in the world, not lead the world in manipulating PISA results. As the face of change Currie’s credibility is shot. He needs to find a new seat in cabinet or be handed a timeout on the backbench.
Art of Distraction Award – When interim Tory leader Jamie Fox stands to ask a question he is earnest, deliberate and serious. But in the run up to the holiday season he took to wearing a Christmas themed tie in the legislature. We should all embrace the spirit of the season, but Fox’s seasonal style led legislative followers to focus on the tie, not the question. Maybe that was the point.
Politics First Award – Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Paula Biggar refused to honour plebiscite results that would lead to an increase in the number of female MLAs (we have only elected 26 women in 95 years). Enough said.
Grand Prix Wrestling Award – Many Islanders grew up watching Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling. No Class Bobby Bass, Killer Karl Krupp and the Cuban Assassin are as known to many as Sittler, Lafleur and Gretzky. Speaker Buck Watts imposed his own version of a match time limit when he ordered questions to be answered within 40 seconds. Brevity is rarely a politician’s strong suit, but the rule worked. We either got a straight answer, or more often than not, a shorter dodge of the question.
No I Really Mean It This Time Award – Politicians love to announce things. Sometimes they like a project so much they will announce it twice. But it takes immense gall to keep promising new manors for Tyne Valley and Montague virtually every year since 2009. Welcome to the Twilight Zone of Liberal election promises. Once again construction of these vital pieces of infrastructure is delayed. Once again government is promising next year. Once again residents are left without an adequate explanation why. And in both cases Liberal MLAs, Paula Biggar and Allen Roach, sit meekly by and let it happen.
Hardest Working Man in Show Business – Admiration for Frank Lewis’s tenure as Lieutenant Governor crosses all political lines. He has done a remarkable job opening the doors of Fanningback to the general public and is a frequent visitor to events big and small across the Island. While still not official, it seems the federal government is set to honour this commitment by extending his term for an extra year. It is a gesture all Islanders should applaud.
Influencer of the Year – Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker managed to both make Premier Wade MacLauchlan lose his cool in the fallout over results of the electoral reform plebiscite, and also convince Tories and Liberals to support introduction of a universal basic income. That’s a combination that requires a deft touch.
Question of the Year: Whose emails were deleted? No, seriously, Islanders deserve to know. Whose emails were deleted?
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org