Olive Crane held on to the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party by just 42 votes Saturday night, but she says the party will go forward united.
More than 900 people packed into the Rodd Royalty hotel for the party’s annual general meeting Saturday in Charlottetown.
Organizers said this was the largest turnout ever for an AGM.
The membership was voting on an amendment to the party’s constitution that would have forced a leadership review in 2013.
Many people lined up in front of microphones to speak to the motion. Several high profile and well-known members of the party spoke in favour of Crane’s leadership and said they felt the motion to force a leadership review was a divisive move.
Others said they felt the way the whole question of a review played out in the public and the media was the wrong approach.
Long time party insider Nelson Hagerman said those pushing for a review should have been more respectful to Crane.
“I think this motion should be shot down totally,” Hagerman said.
Former party leader Pat Mella, who went through a similar situation 16 years ago when party insiders at that time wanted a new leader, said she was given a greater courtesy than Crane because she was asked to step aside.
“I had the decision to make. Nobody made it in the public media first,” Mella said.
“We cannot continue to eat our own. We can’t do this.”
Others said the motion was not meant to be a referendum on Crane’s leadership, but an opportunity for the party to have an open debate about its leadership before the next election.
“I don’t have any hidden agenda and I’m not lurking in any shadows…I though it was important to have an opportunity to have a leadership review sooner rather than later,” said Keith Boswall, who put forward the motion.
“If we don’t resolve this issue, it is going to plague us. The members need to decide and I can’t think of any better way to put the party first than letting all of you decide,” said Charlottetown lawyer Murray Murphy.
In the end, the party voted against the amendment by a vote of 384 to 342.
There were seven spoiled ballots.
That means Crane holds on to her party’s leadership by only 42 votes.
Gerard McCardle said he was disappointed with the results. He said the closeness of the results will only mean the party will remain divided on this issue.
“We cannot continue to eat our own. We can’t do this," - Pat Mella, former PC leader
“We wanted a review. It had nothing to do with our leader it had to do with a review and unfortunately where we stand now is a divided party,” McCardle said.
Still, Crane says she believes she can bring the party together under her leadership going forward.
“I just see it as a lot more work that needs to be done.”
Crane said the party needs to keep an eye on the end game, which is the next provincial election in 2015. She's confident the party will come out of the vote united.
Crane has always said if her poll numbers don’t improve, she will subject herself to a leadership review in 2013.
“The polls are one aspect,” Crane told reporters Saturday.
“My commitment remains that if we’re not all working together and we’re not showing to Islanders a real alternative, including your famous polls, then I’ll do the right thing for the party.
“But today is not about that at all. It’s about getting the job done and to continue to move ahead.”
... Much more to come, including photos and video from Saturday's annual general meeting.