Local businessman Chris Palmer has won the right to carry the Liberal Party of P.E.I.’s banner in the as yet unannounced District 21 byelection.
Palmer won the nomination in only one round of voting Wednesday night against rivals Brian McFeely and Nancy Beth Guptill.
Janice Sherry stepped down from the seat earlier this year.
There were 263 eligible voters registered at the meeting, which was held at a packed Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club. A candidate needed at least 50 per cent of the vote, plus one, to be declared the winner.
When it was all over, a visibly relieved Palmer was informed by the party that an election team was already in place and that they would be getting to work Thursday morning.
He was eager to get going, he said.
“We’re ready to go.”
During his speech prior to the vote, Palmer focused heavily on the need for more job creation in Summerside. He used his own family as an example of a common story from the area; having to, reluctantly, move away for many years before finding an opportunity to allow them to come back.
“I was one of those kids who had to move away. I didn’t want to go. I whined the whole time I was away and really wanted to come back home. So I want to create opportunities for kids (here) so they don’t have to move away. We really need to make opportunities available for young folks,” he said.
Palmer is the last candidate from the four political parties active in the district to be officially declared. He’ll face PC candidate Brian Ramsay, Lynne Lund from the Green Party, Scott Gaudet from the NDP and John Curtis as an independent.
There had been speculation that Premier Wade MacLauchlan would use the occasion Wednesday night to officially call the byelection, but that didn’t happen.
MacLauchlan acknowledged those rumours but said that ultimately he had decided to wait. Until when, though, he didn’t say.
He did, however, speak about the need for the party to take this byelection seriously and referred to the district as a bellwether, as it tends to go with whichever side forms government.
He warned the membership not to be complacent about their chances of winning.
Sherry won the district in the 2015 general election by only 30 votes ahead of Ramsay, who was the PC nominee at that time as well.
“It needs to be said that we shouldn’t be smug. It’s never good in this game and it’s never fun anyway to be complacent about the outcome at any time. It’s clearly the case that if this district is going to continue with a Liberal representative that we have to start recognizing that we’re in a full-out, tight fight,” said MacLauchlan.