Olive Crane says she is tired of fighting the knives in her back since she won the leadership in 2010 and is now stepping aside as Opposition leader.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian Tuesday afternoon, Crane said she has changed her mind about staying on as Opposition leader after her resignation as PC party leader becomes effective on Wednesday.
She believes this is the only way the party can move forward from the deep divisions that have plagued the Progressive Conservatives for months.
“I felt is was important right now to leave the direction that obviously wasn’t working and try another route,” Crane said.
Crane announced in November she was quitting as leader of the PC party, effective Jan. 30. But she ruffled many feathers when she also indicated she planned to stay on as Opposition leader.
Now, Crane says she will not pursue this position.
Sitting in the Opposition leader’s office Tuesday for her last day, surrounded by banker’s boxes filled with her files, she spoke plainly about her feelings of betrayal by some within the party.
The PC backroom has been fighting against her since she won the leadership from Jamie Ballem in 2010, she said.
“I want to be very clear, we know there was a group since 2010 that tried to block me every stage, every place in the game. From 2010 they never got involved in a positive way in trying to help us grow in the direction of the party I was trying to take,” Crane said.
“Even during the election of 2011 it was no secret there were people on our own side working against us, and that’s a huge disappointment.”
Crane said she realized she could no longer continue in any kind of leadership role when her embattled stance within party was named The Guardian’s top news story of 2012.
“That was my biggest disappointment in my whole career.”
As Opposition leader, the issues she was trying to champion should have been the focus, not her struggles with party politics, she said.
“Those are the issues and Islanders are the people I want to fight for, not to be constantly fighting a few people that throw knives at your back when you’re not looking.”
She referred many times to a group of PC insiders who paid for an internal survey to gauge her level of support, then tried to force a review of her leadership last fall.
Crane called this group the party’s "backroom," and pulled no punches in her feelings about their actions.
“I want to be very clear, we know there was a group since 2010 that tried to block me every stage, every place in the game. From 2010 they never got involved in a positive way in trying to help us grow in the direction of the party I was trying to take,” - Olive Crane
She referenced a recent fake Twitter account that appeared recently, which published the details of her personal disclosure statements and other negative slurs.
“That kind of garbage, in my book, Islanders do not want, do not need and I, for one, am going to take no part of,” she said.
“My style of leadership was always more independent and challenging to the old style …the back room,” she said.
She believes her detractors would like to see her quit the party altogether.
Nonetheless Crane vowed to stay on as a PC MLA.
But now, the gloves are off.
“I’m going to sit as an MLA and represent my constituents. But I also am not going to sit silent anymore and on many issues you’re going to hear my voice often and far-reaching across P.E.I.”
She wouldn’t say which of the three candidates for interim PC leader she will support, but it is widely believed her vote will be for Hal Perry. MLA Steven Myers and unsuccessful PC MLA Linda Clements are also seeking the job.
Crane also said she plans to work actively on someone’s campaign during the party’s leadership convention, details of which have not yet been announced.
Looking back over her time as PC and Opposition leader, Crane said she is satisfied with progress she was able to affect on certain key issues, such as deputy minister accountability and the stroke unit at the QEH.
The stress caused by the efforts of some to push her from the leadership almost had her ready to quit altogether, she admitted.
But after hearing from many supporters who would tear up when seeing her in the street, asking why she was abandoning them, she said she is now re-energized to work for her constituents.
“Yes, I may not pronounce my I-N-Gs sometimes. Yes, I dress kind of funny. But I’ll tell you, I believe in Islanders, I’m proud to be an Islander and I’m proud to be a Progressive Conservative,” she said.
Her chief of staff, Kent Avery, will also be leaving his position as part of an office reorganization that will begin with Crane’s resignation as Opposition Leader.