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P.E.I. Green opposition status unlikely, even with tied seats: expert

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Prince Edward Island’s newest MLA was sworn in today, but that brought along with it a legislative tie and questions about who should serve as that province’s official opposition.

Matthew MacFarlane was at the provincial legislature in Charlottetown for the ceremony this afternoon, taking his oath of office and his place among the 27 members.

However, something has changed, the third place P.E.I. Green Party is now tied with the opposition Liberals at three seats apiece, and, along with the fact the Greens won more of the popular vote, that has prompted calls for official opposition status from the party’s leader.

Experts say that’s unlikely to happen, but according to Don Desserud, UPEI professor and political science expert, getting opposition status might not be the most important factor in calling for it.

“I’m not sure that they seriously believe that they have the constitutional right,” said Desserud. “But from a political standpoint, reminding everybody that they want to be the opposition, that they’re ready to be the opposition, and that they think they’ve got the merit to be the official opposition is a very good political tactic.”

This is unprecedented for P.E.I., but in other provinces where this happened the speaker has ruled for the status quo. Desserud said that’s essentially the speaker’s job.

The Green party says opposition status would give them more time on the floor, but wouldn’t change more than that.

“Whether we’re called the official opposition or not, it’s not going to change how we represent islanders in the legislature,” said Matthew MacFarlane, Green Party MLA.

Desserud said the election showed the Greens, who gained six seats for a total of eight up from two in 2019, before losing them again in the last election, are more than a flash in the pan.

“This is encouraging,” said Desserud. “The idea that the Green Party is dead and done and over with is not true."

A third member grows the Green’s caucus by 50 per cent. Party officials say that gives them more horsepower to get things done.

It’s not yet clear who the speaker will recognize as official opposition, but she must make that decision by the opening of the next session of the legislature on Tuesday.

For more Prince Edward Island news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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