Gender still leadership issue: Mella

Teresa Wright
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Continued criticism of Crane upsets former PC leader

Former party leader Pat Mella speaks to the gathered Tories in Charlottetown on Saturday.

Former Progressive Conservative leader Pat Mella says she believes one of the reasons Olive Crane has been plagued by questions about her leadership is because she is a woman.

Since taking over as leader of the party, first as interim leader following the 2007 election and after winning the 2010 PC leadership convention against Jamie Ballem, Crane has been called an 'ineffective leader' by countless pundits and politicians.

In an interview with The Guardian, Mella said she believes part of the reason Crane has faced such continued criticism of her leadership abilities stems from her gender.

"There is a certain percentage of people on Prince Edward Island that just feel women are smart and capable and women can be certain things, but when it comes to having one as your boss, they're not really sure," she said.

"Let's face it, we still have that issue to face."

Mella spoke passionately at a microphone Saturday about her being upset with the way a group of party members organized quietly amongst themselves before waging a public battle to push for a leadership review in 2013.

The party voted against the motion for such a review by a vote of 384 to 342.

Mella faced a similar situation 16 years ago when party operatives at that time wanted a new leader. But rather than forcing a vote on leadership review, Mella was instead asked to step aside, and she did.

While she believes many other factors played into both hers and Crane's situations, she maintains the gender issue has played a silent but very real role in both circumstances.

"I don't think it was the only issue, obviously, but I think a lot of people, if they asked themselves honestly in their heads, 'Am I comfortable with a woman leader?' I think there are some who would have to say, 'I'm not sure I'm there yet.'" Mella said.

"There is a certain percentage of people on Prince Edward Island that just feel women are smart and capable and women can be certain things, but when it comes to having one as your boss, they're not really sure," Pat Mella, former PC leader

"It shouldn't be that difficult. We've got four (female premiers) in the country and they're from the most powerful provinces in the country. This is not rocket science, it's time to get over that issue."

Crane was reluctant to broach the issue, but admitted gender is likely part of the uphill battle she has had to climb as PC leader.

"I think sometimes we just have to put gender out of the way and look at capabilities and qualities," Crane said.

In her 'caucus on the road' tours across P.E.I., Crane says she believes she has had the opportunity to meet people and allow them to see her at work. That can make all the difference.

"Even for some people where it might be an issue, they get to see me in a different way and they'll forget whether I'm male or female."

Mella added she believes newer generations of voters are not so gender-sensitive.

That's why she believes the majority of party members voted against holding a review of Crane's leadership Saturday.

"Unfortunately some of the tactics that have been used to try to get this motion put forward reflect an 'old boys' approach that the people are fed up with. They don't want that anymore."


Organizations: Crane's

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • What makes a leader
    November 06, 2012 - 09:23

    The ability to unite –no matter what - is one of a leader’s role. Many good leaders have faced adversity but it is at those times when their abilities show if they can truly lead. To shift the blame to others is not one of those skills. Ms. Crane has had plenty of time to bring the party forward and hasn’t; she has had plenty of time to gain popularity in the polls and hasn’t. To use gender as an issue is not logical. Where were the many people who say openly at coffee shops that Ms. Crane, unfortunately, does not have what it takes to be premier. This has been brewing for a while and to blame it on a few people is silly. There has been constant chatter among people for a long time, even among her supporters, but some Islanders do what they do best – say one thing in private but do another in public. And, if you think that a woman is above some of the undercutting or less than honest tactics, think again. I’m sure some people, of any side, can attest to that. By the time she decides or her supporters decide that she must go, it may be too late. That is not putting the party first to hang on when you can be effective in another role. Thank you for your years of service but this has become more about your needs. To have chosen to allow the party to divide itself is not reflective of a good leader.

  • Gerry
    November 05, 2012 - 19:47

    Let's not lose sight of the reason for the voting. It was not for the purpose of electing a new leader. If Olive had lost against those in favour of the "review" she would still remain leader. And yes, gender bias is alive and well on this not so gentle Island. However, Olive Crane's and Pat Mella's anatomy obviously surpasses that of the Conservative old-boys' network. Bring on the election!

  • Wondering
    November 05, 2012 - 19:29

    I write this as neither a card carrying member of any political party on PEI and I have a couple of questions to ask. If it were only a few who suggested the leadership review, then why would about 45% of the memebership vote in favor?? I would think with the way Robert Ghiz has ran this province in the last 5 or 6 years that a high school student could be ahead of him in the opinion polls woudn't you think? Apparantly the general public dont think that Olive is the best option going forward whether she is female or male I cant answer that question but she clearly hasnt demonstrated a clear leadership ability in order to have any impact on the digruntled or undecided if she is still behind his heiness Ghiz. Some people unfortunatley don't put the best of the party in front of their own interests as if I was the leader of any party and 45% of my members wanted a review I would certainly grant that or resign as they will also be the ones casting votes in 2015!

  • More Conservative than Progressive
    November 05, 2012 - 18:54

    If as Pat Mella says one of the big issues regarding Olive Crane being accepted as the leader of the PCs is the fact that she is a woman then I guess the PCs on PEI are more Conservative then they are Progressive. As Tracey Allen noted, Catherine Callbeck got elected as Premier so I guess this means that the Liberals and their supporters are in the 21st century and the PCs are in the 19th century.

  • Craig Blanchard
    November 05, 2012 - 18:44

    No, my problem with Olive is not her gender... it's her complete lack of a right wing, small government and free market bone in her body. A condition shared by most island "Conservatives". PEI does't have conservative party... PC or not. What we need is 1 conservative party (minus the religious nonsense of the US) instead of 3 liberal parties.

    • Dave
      November 06, 2012 - 22:48

      Do you not realize "right wing" is not a compliment?

  • Status versus gender
    November 05, 2012 - 18:33

    I'm just not sure that it is a gender issue as much as it is a status issue. People like to vote for people who they perceive to have a higher status in society. Our current premier was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and cannot relate to ordinary Islanders. Instead, he chooses to take care of all his rich friends. Olive, on the other hand, is an ordinary, hard-working Islander who I think would bring a refreshing change to politics. I say, let's try something different this time by voting for someone in who is more like the majority of Islanders!

    • Janet Gaudet
      November 06, 2012 - 10:57

      You are so right. Catherine Callbeck is part of a very prominent Island family and there's too much emphasis put on that when leaders are elected for PCs and Liberals in P.E.I. I met Catherine in person one on one 3 times and I liked her but she was not outstanding as a Premier. It's time for Island voters to stop electing people on the basis of their family and social connections. This is 2012, not 1900. To choose a leader just because their father was premier is rather ridiculous. I didn't vote for Ghiz in 2007 or 2011 because I knew he was not cut out to be a premier.

  • SG
    November 05, 2012 - 18:17

    I'm a woman and I do not feel in any way gender had anything to do with Olive Crane's Leadership. I don't recall Catherine Callbeck's Leadership being affected by gender issues. However I do feel 42 Votes was a very small margin. Half were for and Half were against. Hence doesn't this split the Conservative Party in half? In any event, as I stated previously I will vote NDP in next Provincial and Federal Elections.

  • Bob Macdonald
    November 05, 2012 - 18:03

    Lets see the Liberal MLA's vote to give themselves all raises while telling everyone else to tighten their belts. Instead of pointing out the irony in this she stands up and says how hard they work and that she thinks they deserve it. She later back tracks a little but we know where she really stands... The liberals come out with the HST tax grab and again she's not immediately sure if she supports it or not. She should have come right out and said its a tax grab and showed how it was. The whole plan B thing. There is not one person out there protesting that didn't vote for the green party in the last election and they are all going to vote for the green party in the next election. So what is she doing wasting her time with them and turning off people that would normally vote for the conservatives. Generally speaking Progressive Conservatives are FOR development and she is turning a lot of those people off. PNP - she might pick up some votes there but will probably lose just as many. Don't forget the conservatives benefited just as much from this as did the Liberals. So NO I don't think this is a gender issue. She is just failing to connect with her own constituency. The next election should be an easy one for the conservatives to win but something in the conservative party will have to change first and I don't think it gender.

  • not so interested
    November 05, 2012 - 18:00

    Playing the gender card I see...

  • SG
    November 05, 2012 - 17:54

    Tracy Allen: I couldn't agree more. (Just my thoughts on the subject - from a non-PC, non-Liberal or non-any party at the moment. Personally if I was her and received just 42 votes to win, I would graciously step down and make way for a new leader.) The interview on Compass this evening with PC Leader Olive Crane and PC President Blake Doyle only served in confirming my opinion. I will be supporting the NDP in the next Provincial and Federal Election and I have never voted NDP previously. If the Conservatives or Liberals want my vote in the Future they have alot of work to do. To say I'm disappointed in both Parties on both levels is a Huge Understatement !

  • Curious
    November 05, 2012 - 16:20

    Sounds like sour grapes on Mella's part to me.

  • don
    November 05, 2012 - 15:23

    WALDORF. bull on the polls they can be fixed depending on who is paying the bill same as gas prices they are fixed. if you can do any better then run for the leader ship if not take your polls and find a hole and cover it up.

  • angus
    November 05, 2012 - 15:01

    I think it was more about wanting Olive out of there now that the PNP list of companies receiving money is to be released. It'll be interesting to see that & it's connections to the Tory back room boys. Crane already proved she won't quit on that so they had to find another way to stop her. As for the Kingmaker Duffy - time he went back to the trough in Ottawa, instead of trying to run PEI politicis. What a disgrace he is - for a guy that was well-respected and a media star - at least on PEI. Now playing political games with the good ol boys to save their hides. Just ugly!

    • Bob Macdonald
      November 06, 2012 - 06:20

      Kingmaker Duffy??? Are you serious??

  • Emily
    November 05, 2012 - 14:59

    Hallelujah! Of course this is a gender issue. Olive Crane is a woman, with a backbone, leader of a polictical party in Prince Edward Island, and the "backroom boys" are trying to get rid of her. Come on.

  • so fed up with the entitled
    November 05, 2012 - 14:55

    The old boys commissioned a poll which had Olive at a scant 20 %....they had a lot of money and lawyers behind their attempt to toss Olive and still (according to them) while the vote wasn't about her in particular she managed to have a whopping 53% of the members with enough faith in her abilities that they felt a review wasn't even necessary !! They are all about democracy long as the voters side with them !! How many defeats do they need before the backroom BOYS..decide to grow up into men and stop their sulking !! ...and it looks like PNP is going to come out their time might better be spent getting their own houses in order !

  • Discrimination is every where
    November 05, 2012 - 14:37

    The Liberals are also guilty here..Jeanne LEE is agood it is not justa Tory issue....

  • Garth Staples
    November 05, 2012 - 14:16


  • Craig from Kings
    November 05, 2012 - 13:53

    Nope pretty sure that there are MANY more issues besides gender.Good try though.

  • Darrin Deveau
    November 05, 2012 - 13:21

    Sometimes I wonder whay I came back to PEI? For Pat Mella to make a comment that being a women plays a role in a leadership and leadership ability is uterally ridiculous!! What a backwater comment to make... back of the line for you... Both Pat Mella and Olive Cranesimply dont have what it takes in leadership why would anyone vote PC

      November 05, 2012 - 16:07

      DARRIN... You didn't say where you came back from. Was it the 50's,60's or midevel times? Of course gender is an issue here. While it is not the only issue,it certainly is one.I believe it's your comment that is backwater. Please enlighten us, the great unwashed, just exactly what it takes to lead a political party. You seem ti know what it takes, so tell us. Are you suggesting that integrity,honesty, openness and a desire to do what is right are not the stuff of what a good leader should be? We know what attributes the ruling government have and I don't think the attributes I attribute to Olive can be found in the current government, so just exactly are these attributes?

  • Snow White
    November 05, 2012 - 12:51

    The country folk do not appear to have a problem with a woman on the top, it seems to be more of an urban issue.

  • Disagree
    November 05, 2012 - 12:44

    I totally DISAGREE. This is not about the fact Olive Crane is a woman. This is about a bunch of backroom boys who refuse to grow up. Don't turn this into a gender thing. What islanders need is to see the PC party stand up behind their leader and work together as a TEAM to win the next election.

  • Excuses
    November 05, 2012 - 12:43

    I wonder if Gail Shea would agree? She doesn't seem to have any issues?

  • Tracey Allen
    November 05, 2012 - 12:28

    As a woman - talking to other women - it isn't because she is a woman, it is because of the polls and the votes. Catherine Callbeck did just fine as do other women in politics. Yes there are challenges but I don't think being a women is the issue here. Just my thoughts on the subject - from a non-PC, non-Liberal or non-any party at the moment. Personally if I was her and received just 42 votes to win, I would graciously step down and make way for a new leader.

    • voter
      November 05, 2012 - 15:02

      catherine callbeck , kim campbell, and a few others were the worst things that could happen to the credibility of women wanting to enter politics- i couldn't care if they were male- female- hemale- shemale -transgender-no gender-mono-bi-tri-- - etc etc if they are a politician they are not to be trusted - to pick on someone for their gender is stupidity-all genders can be pretty stupid

  • Bertie
    November 05, 2012 - 12:28

    Yeah the good ole boys are losing their touch. They rolled out some big names, sons of past premiers no less, the supposed sure fire formula for success without credentials, Robert Ghiz being point in question of course. They spent big money. They did a big survey by robocall. They had all the media spin. And still they could not put the boot to Olive. Amazing. Good old boys are not what good old boys used to be in this province. On the same weekend he Ghiz good ole boys lose control over the PNP list. It is truly a time of change on PEI. These guys just can't seem to hold their scams and slick power plays together any more.

  • Party Follower
    November 05, 2012 - 12:18

    Well done Pat Mella, you are right on, as well deserve alot of credit for speaking out on this issue. Olive Crane earned a well desereved vote of confidence on Saturday, she went into this vote situation with honesty and intigrity and came out on top. I wish her all the best and again thank you Pat. As for Jason Lea, he has accepted the vote results and is committed to working with the party, as for Keith Boswell, Jamie Ballum, Mike Currie and this McCadle guy, what a piece of work, I would suggest they contact the Liberals, they will be excepted on the spot as their morale values speak volumes. Time for the PC Party to unite and be very strong going into the next election.

  • moral fortitude crane stands alone
    November 05, 2012 - 12:12

    You would have to be blind and morally bankrupt to vote for Ghiz against Crane.

  • Enough with the games
    November 05, 2012 - 12:07

    I for one am very tired of the "Old Boys" Back Room Approach. I hope I am wrong in thinking this may be a bit of a gender issue. I am a Conservative, and was very disappointed to see the actions of a few of these back room boys stirring the pot which only sends out a very negative message from the party. As stated: Mella faced a similar situation 16 years ago when party operatives at that time wanted a new leader. But rather than forcing a vote on leadership review, Mella was instead asked to step aside, and she did. There is a right way of doing things then there is the back door approach which is wrong. If the members are not happy with Olive , then she and the party should meet and come up with a solution that is best for the Conservative Party. It is more important to be take the high road, be up front and honest than to sheepishly meet behind closed doors and try to demote someone that is very loyal to the party. It is time for the party to stand together as one and FOCUS on the upcoming Election to ensure an Island wide win for the Conservative Party.

  • waldorf
    November 05, 2012 - 11:53

    Gender still leadership issue, i think not ,Olive Crane is not connecting with the public ,The polls show it ... where does the tory party go from here . the way the ghiz is running things the tory should be flying high in the polls there not , Olive Crane must have enough brains to see that S he should step down. The NDP has a great chance to grab some seats . Mike Redmond get some good candidates and you will sure see some wins

    • NDP first time
      November 05, 2012 - 22:24

      I will be checking the NDP box for the first time ever. I am a woman and I would not vote for Crane. The tactics used in the last election reminded me of bullies. I am against bullying. I have no faith in Ghiz. Since Green party involved in the plan b protest I won't consider them either. So NDP has my vote!