Seeing double: Candidates with same name square off in P.E.I. election fight

The provincial election is slated for April 23

Prince Edward Island provincial Progressive Conservative Party candidate Matthew MacKay poses in this undated handout photo. As voters on Prince Edward Island prepare for an election next month, residents in the Kensington area are facing a choice between two candidates with the exact same name. Progressive Conservative incumbent Matthew MacKay from North Granville, P.E.I., will be squaring off against Green party candidate Matthew MacKay from Sea View, P.E.I. To help voters keep track of who is who, the Green party has agreed their candidate will use his middle initial, which means his name will appear on the ballot as Matthew J. MacKay. Local media have already started referring to them as PC MacKay and Green MacKay. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - PEI PC Party)

Voters in one P.E.I. riding face a tough choice in the April 23 provincial election: Matthew MacKay, or Matthew MacKay.

Seeking re-election in the provincial district of Kensington-Malpeque, Progressive Conservative Matthew MacKay is being challenged by Green party rookie Matthew MacKay.

READ MORE: A funny thing happened on the way to the election

“I was a little worried that come election day some people might get confused,” says the Tory incumbent, a 37-year-old real estate agent who has represented the district since 2015.

“It’s the talk of the community right now.”

To avoid confusion, his Green party rival has agreed to use his middle initial, which means his name will appear on the ballot as Matthew J. MacKay.

Matthew J. says the Island’s Scottish settlers helped create this odd predicament.

“The Scots are very frugal people, we recycle everything — we even recycle names,” says 64-year-old Matthew J., a semi-retired graphic artist who worked at the University of Prince Edward Island.

“There’s a lot of MacKays and there’s a lot of Matthews … We’re not really creative when it comes to new, trendy names. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened in P.E.I. before.”

Local media are referring to the two men as Green MacKay and PC MacKay. The Liberal candidate is Nancy Beth Guptill.

The Green contender, who refers to himself as “Old Matthew,” says he has come to the conclusion there will be no confusion on voting day, thanks to a quirk of Island politics.

“It’s an only-on-P.E.I. story, in the sense that District 20 has only 4,000 voters — and most of us know everybody here anyway,” Matthew J. said in an interview.

“We (both) grew up here … We’re not separated at birth. We don’t look remotely similar. And most people would know who is who … Nobody is going to be confused in P.E.I.”

As well, a spokesman for Elections P.E.I. says each candidate’s party affiliation and hometown will be clearly indicated on the ballots.

In the 2000 federal election, two men named John Williams faced off in Alberta’s St. Albert riding. Before the vote, the local returning officer drew their names out of a hat to determine which one would appear first on the ballot.

At the time, it was thought to be a first in federal election history.

In P.E.I., Premier Wade MacLauchlan called for an early election on Tuesday, saying the Liberal party can take credit for stoking the fires of the Island’s red-hot economy.

Under the province’s election law, voters were slated to go to the polls Oct. 7, but MacLauchlan moved up the date, partly to avoid a conflict with the federal election on Oct. 19.

The latest opinion polls suggest the Liberal party has lost favour with the electorate after 11 years in power.

A Corporate Research Associates survey released this month suggests the Greens had a healthy lead, followed by the Progressive Conservatives, who picked a new leader, Dennis King, in February. The Liberals were in third place, followed by the NDP, led by Joe Byrne.

As a rookie leader with no political baggage, MacLauchlan — a constitutional lawyer and former law professor — led the Liberals to a majority win in 2015.

On Tuesday, MacLauchlan set the tone for the campaign by dismissing the Conservative party as a group in chaos, noting they’ve had five leaders in four years. And he suggested voting for the Greens would be too risky, saying the future of the province was too important to “risk on uncertain, expensive social experiments.”

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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