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."