Although most Prince Edward Islanders head to the polls on Tuesday, one district will have to wait to cast their ballots after one of the candidates and his son died over the long weekend.
Josh Underhay, the Green Party candidate in District 9 (Charlottetown–Hillsborough Park), and his young son died in a canoeing accident on Friday afternoon.
As a result, Elections PEI said it will put into force a section of the Election Act that requires a delay in voting of no more than three months in the event a candidate on the ballot dies prior to an election. A date for the new election has yet to be determined.
“Elections PEI was very saddened to learn about the passing of Josh Underhay and his son,” said Tim Garrity, chief electoral officer with Elections PEI, in a statement. “We offer our thoughts and prayers to their family, friends and colleagues. Taking this tragic situation into consideration, there are provisions in the Election Act to amend the timing of the election within the district in question.”
WATCH: P.E.I. Green Party candidate Josh Underhay killed in accident days ahead of election
Despite that decision, the referendum also planned for Tuesday will go ahead.
P.E.I. voters are being asked to vote on whether the province should consider changing its electoral system from first-past-the-post, which is used federally and provincially, to mixed member proportional representation. That is the system used in about 90 other countries, including New Zealand, Germany and some parts of Scotland.
“Staff from both offices share their sorrow for the tragic event that has so deeply affected the Underhay family on Friday, April 19,” read a joint statement on the referendum matter from Garrity and Gerard Mitchell, commissioner of the referendum.
“This election contains a referendum question that is an Island-wide vote and is separate and distinct from the individual candidate races being held in each district. The vote will happen as scheduled to preserve the integrity of a process already underway.”
The results of that vote will be watched across the country — British Columbia voters rejected a similar referendum late last year and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abandoned a campaign promise to implement electoral reform.
Peter Bevan-Baker, Green Party leader in the province, has been a vocal advocate for changing the electoral system.
His party is leading recent opinion polls but cancelled all party campaigning over the weekend, as well as all events on Monday, in response to the death of Underhay and his young son.
His rivals also stopped campaigning over the weekend and Bevan-Baker says he was struck by the support from other politicians and from Canadians.
The Greens have been climbing in the polls for roughly a year now, leading to speculation that the country’s smallest province could make history on Tuesday if it elects the Greens to form government.
The party has never before done so.
WATCH BELOW: Is the Green Party poised to break through on PEI?
However, those same polls also suggest rival Liberal and Conservative parties are snapping at their heels.
With those kinds of margins, the polls have also raised the question of whether the province could see its first minority government since 1890.
With files from the Canadian Press.
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