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Progressive Conservative Leader Olive Crane says she is not intimidated by a group of party members trying to undermine her leadership.
Progressive Conservatives will gather Saturday for the party's much-anticipated annual meeting, where Olive Crane's leadership of the party will be the focus of debate.
And, although it's not officially on the agenda for the day, sources tell The Guardian some members may even ask for a leadership review to be held right there and then.
Hundreds are expected to attend the event at the Rodd Royalty hotel in Charlottetown.
There they will be asked to vote for candidates vying for key positions on the executive as well as two motions that propose changes to the party's constitution.
One of those motions proposes a review of Crane’s leadership in 2013.
Party president Sylvia Poirier said this motion has sparked a great deal of interest in the meeting among the membership.
“There's certainly a lot of interest in the constitutional amendments,” Poirier said.
“People have strong feelings but my job is just to try to facilitate and manage everything and I try to listen to everybody and, of course, I don't have an opinion on this – the members will decide.”
Pre-registration is not required for this meeting, so party organizers do not know exactly how many people to expect.
But given the amount of public attention that has been paid to the meeting as well as heavy behind-the-scenes lobbying by supporters on both sides of the leadership review question encouraging fellow supporters to vote, attendance is expected to be higher than previous annual meetings.
That's why, although the room at the Rodd Royalty can seat 500, the party has secured an overflow room complete with an audio-visual live feed, should greater numbers of members arrive for the meeting.
Members who do attend will have a lot of decisions to make. All key members of the executive are re-offering for their positions: Poirier is re-offering for president, Geoff Connolloy for vice-president, Ryan Pineau for treasurer and Charles Blue for secretary.
Poirier is being challenged for the presidency by Charlottetown business owner Blake Doyle and Connolly has been challenged by Morell lawyer Michael Drake for the position of vice-president.
At this time nominations can be called from the floor, so other positions may be challenged as well. But that is one thing the party is proposing to change. This change would require those interested in running for key executive posts to submit their nominations one week prior to an AGM.
But the big vote will be when party members decide whether to force a leadership review of Crane in 2013.
As it stands now, a leadership review would not be held until after the next provincial election, scheduled for October 2015.
The motion proposing such a review was put forward by Jason Lee and Keith Boswall. It quickly become apparent the two are members of larger group pushing for a review of Crane's leadership of the party when robocalls, mass emails, newspaper ads and letters signed by other prominent party members began to emerge, asking for support for the motion.
This group even paid for a survey of 610 members, the results of which suggest more than 70 per cent of Progressive Conservatives in P.E.I. believe the party needs a new leader, including a majority of those in Crane’s own riding.
That's why PC members' phones have been ringing across P.E.I., as member of both sides of this debate have been working hard to ensure they get their vote out.
The motion will be open to the members to debate on the floor, and people on both sides have already been quietly lined up in advance to speak either for or against it.
Sources tell The Guardian those in favour of a leadership review feel so strongly about the need for one, they may ask for a review vote to be held right away at Saturday's AGM.
The vote on this motion has revealed deep divisions that exist within the party, which many attribute to be a continuation of the lines drawn during the party's last leadership convention when Crane won the race against Jamie Ballem.
Crane told The Guardian earlier this week she will not back down from her role as leader, and accused those of pushing for a review of having a 'hidden agenda.'
Regardless of the outcome, Poirier said she hopes the party will emerge from this AGM moving forward together.
“We have to leave that meeting as a united party,” Poirier said.
“We have to demonstrate that there is a viable alternative to the current administration that is really, in my opinion, does not have the best interests of Islanders at heart at the present time. So we'll need to continue our work to strengthen our grassroots, develop policies and generate revenue to get ready for the next election.”