CHARLOTTETOWN – Premier Robert Ghiz of Prince Edward Island was wooed Friday evening with appeals to run federally, calls he hasn’t dismissed as he exits the political stage this weekend.
Salutations for the departing premier poured in from colleagues past, present and possibly future at a provincial Liberal convention in Charlottetown.
“I am definitely going on hiatus from politics for a while,” the 41-year-old told hundreds of supporters at the Prince Edward Island Convention Centre, which opened during his mandate. “I’ve had a great run over the last 12 years.”
Ghiz has said he decided not to run again after his time in provincial politics, eight of which he served as premier, because he no longer had “fire in the belly.” But many are wondering whether this is a retirement or merely a break.
“I’m not saying adieu because I have a feeling we will see you again some time from now,” Quebec Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard said in one of many video tributes.
“I’m sure you will stay away from politics for a while, but who knows? We may cross paths again.”
Former Ontario and federal Liberal Sheila Copps said she also expects to see Ghiz back in public life, and federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau congratulated Ghiz in another video address before saying, “I can’t wait to see what you’re up to next.”
Ghiz’s decision to walk away from politics, at least for now, was unexpected.
He leaves P.E.I.’s Liberal party with a commanding majority in the legislature and the Ghiz family name is a respected one in Island politics. Robert has continued the Ghiz legacy, started when his father Joe served as a popular premier from 1986 to 1993.
Don Desserud, a political science professor at the University of Prince Edward Island and a keen observer of Canadian politics, doesn’t think the country has seen the last of Ghiz as a politician.
“I’d be amazed if he didn’t find something that brought him into more of a national profile,” he said.
Ghiz is a friend of Trudeau’s but he has already ruled out running in the next federal election. He said he is planning to take about six months off to spend time with his family and consider his options.
“Sometimes taking time off you rest up and you’ll get excited again about things and maybe I’ll want to get involved sometime down the road,” he said in an earlier interview. “But in the short term, definitely not.”
Ghiz will be replaced as Liberal leader Saturday afternoon by Wade MacLauchlan. The former president of the University Prince Edward Island is the only person who sought to replace Ghiz and is scheduled to be sworn in as premier on Monday.
Follow @KevinBissett on Twittter.