Skip to main content

Two candidates slated to appear almost identically on Prince Edward Island’s provincial electoral ballot say there is only a small chance voters will see double once the writ is dropped.

In what appears to be a first in recent Canadian provincial politics, just one letter will separate Green Party newcomer Matthew J. MacKay from his Progressive Conservative opponent and namesake, incumbent MLA Matthew MacKay, on PEI’s impending ballot.

A writ is expected to drop any day in PEI. However, neither MacKay is worried about being confused for the other due mostly to the fact they are running in tiny District 20, which has fewer than 4,000 voters.

Story continues below advertisement

“Everybody knows Matthew. Everybody knows Matthew J.,” said Matthew J. MacKay, the Green Party candidate.

“If we were in downtown Toronto and the district were [thousands of] people, I could see where there would be confusion … but in our district, everybody pretty well knows everybody. Nobody is going to mistake young Matthew for old Matthew," he said.

Mr. MacKay, the PC candidate and the Matthew most likely to be construed as “young,” said he was “caught off guard” when he learned, several weeks ago, of his almost identically named opponent.

“Rumour got out that there was somebody running with the same name as me,” he said. “The first thing I started thinking was, come election day, how are we going to deal with it?”

Provincial legislation in PEI requires provincial electoral candidates to be listed alphabetically on the ballot, said Tim Garrity, PEI’s chief electoral officer. The legislation does not, however, require candidates to use their full legal names.

“If one of them wanted to go by Matt MacKay, Matt would come before Matthew,” Mr. Garrity said. “But if not, the middle initial would come into play.”

Although he has never before used his middle initial, which stands for “John,” Mr. MacKay, the Green Party candidate, said he was willing to adopt it for his foray into politics in the interest of keeping things “kind, equitable and fair.”

Story continues below advertisement

“If they had wanted me to go by ‘Mathew-John-the-old-skinny-guy-who-runs-MacKay,’ I would have done that,” he said, adding: “Matthew is a fine, fine man. I’m willing to do all I can to make sure everyone is happy.”

Although the practice is not common in Canada, U.S. political parties have drawn ire in the past for backing candidates with names identical to popular incumbents. Sometimes called “dummy” candidates, they are often used to confuse voters and split votes.

Lynne Lund, deputy leader of the Green Party of PEI, said the name confusion was not intentional in District 20.

“It’s a surprising situation,” she said. “But we all know how hard it is to get people to [run for office].”

Before announcing her Mr. MacKay’s candidacy, Ms. Lund telephoned the other Mr. MacKay to discuss how he preferred his name to appear on the ballot.

“I acknowledged the absurdity of the situation and told him we would be willing to do whatever we could do to make things clear,” Ms. Lund said.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. MacKay, the PC candidate, pondered switching to “Matt” or adding his middle initial, “G,” to campaign materials. Both changes would have put him ahead of Mr. MacKay, the Green candidate, on the ballot.

But in the end he decided to simply stick with what he – and apparently everyone else – knows.

“Everybody knows me as Matthew MacKay,” he said. “You know practically everybody here by the first name anyway.”

The last time two identically named federal political candidates ran in the same district was in 2000, when John Williams (Canadian Alliance) took on John Williams (New Democratic Party) in the Alberta riding of St. Albert. Canada’s then-chief electoral officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, resorted to drawing names from a hat to ensure a fair decision on which candidate would appear first on the ballot.

With a report from Stephanie Chambers

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies