P.E.I. agriculture minister re-elected

Prince Edward Island’s agriculture minister is among the members of the province’s Liberal caucus heading back to the legislature after a convincing win Monday night.

In unofficial results posted late Monday by Elections P.E.I., Premier Robert Ghiz’s Liberals held only a slightly smaller majority, elected or leading in 22 of 27 districts, with the remaining five going to Olive Crane’s Progressive Conservatives, compared to a 23-4 score for the Liberals in 2007.

George Webster, the MLA for the Borden-Kinkora riding and provincial agriculture minister since January 2009, pulled in 1,590 votes Monday against 1,468 for the Tories’ Jamie Fox and 160 for the Green Party’s Conor Leggott.

Wesbter, who ran his family’s farm in the Middleton area for over 30 years before entering the legislature in 2007, was also named Ghiz’s deputy premier in January 2010.

Before being named to the ag portfolio, Webster served as minister of environment, energy and forestry from 2007 to 2009. He briefly stepped down from the ag post in August 2009 while recovering from a mild heart attack, but later resumed his duties.

It’s not yet known whether Webster, who was an active member of agriculture industry organizations including the P.E.I. Potato Board before entering politics, will stay on in that file, but the Liberals have some farming depth in the talent pool elected Monday night.

That pool includes dairyman Alan McIsaac, who won the Vernon River-Stratford riding over another farmer, Tory candidate Mary Ellen McInnis.

Robert Vessey, who farmed before running for office, kept the York-Oyster Bed riding for the Liberals over Martie Murphy, a Wendy’s franchisee who was raised on the farm in Alberta. Valerie Docherty, who won the Kellys Cross-Cumberland riding over the Tories’ Neila Auld, hails from a potato farm at Elmwood. Robert Henderson, also a former farmer, won the O’Leary-Inverness riding over the Tories’ Daniel MacDonald, a former director with the Western Holstein Club.

Ag critic needed

The Tories will also have to come up with a new ag critic to replace Montague-Kilmuir MLA Jim Bagnall, who did not stand for re-election and whose riding flipped to the Liberals and their candidate Allen Roach on Monday night.

Candidates for the ag critic file include the party’s new leader, Olive Crane, who with her family operates a wild blueberry farm at Douglas Station. She held her district of Morell-Mermaid on Monday night against the Liberals’ Dan Macdonald.

Another potential Tory ag critic would be Hal Perry, president of the P.E.I. 4-H Council and the unofficial victor in the Tignish-Palmer Road riding on Monday.

At last count, Perry, a property development officer with the provincial environment, energy and forestry department, beat a former provincial agriculture minister, the Liberals’ Neil LeClair, by a narrow spread of 33 votes.

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