Newly elected interim PC Leader Steven Myers says the party needs to stop focusing on the mistakes of the past and begin working toward uniting and building for the next election.
Myers was elected interim leader by the Progressive Conservative executive and the five Tory MLAs on Thursday evening in a closed-door meeting in Charlottetown.
He was vying for the position with fellow MLA Hal Perry, who was named Opposition leader Wednesday, and former PC candidate Linda Clements.
Myers told reporters he is happy he was chosen as interim leader and will begin working right away on bridging the deep divisions that have plagued the party for months.
“Starting tomorrow morning we need to start rebuilding the party from the ground up and I look forward to doing it,” Myers said.
“We need to start repairing any divides or bad feelings that are out there in the party. We need to start pulling it together and we need to go out to the grassroots to do it.”
As interim leader, Myers now has the top job in the PC party and will be responsible for the membership, rules, policy and preparing the party for the next provincial election.
But he will not have the top job in the legislature.
Just one day ago, Hal Perry put his name forward during a caucus meeting to take over as Opposition leader after Crane announced Tuesday she was quitting this position. She announced in December she would resign as leader of the party.
Myers also put his name forward for the post of leader of the Opposition, and a vote was held.
Sources have told The Guardian Perry had the support of Crane and Souris-Elmira MLA Colin LaVie for this vote, thus a majority. Opposition leader is chosen by consensus of the Opposition caucus.
Perry now is the leader of the Opposition.
But many within the party and the public are confused by this new situation. Traditionally the same person has held both the position of party leader and Opposition leader, unless the party leader was unelected – an Opposition leader must be an elected MLA.
This may be the first time in P.E.I. history in which the party leader and the Opposition leader are two separate people within the same caucus.
Myers has previously said he believes one person should hold the two roles.
On Thursday he confirmed his feelings on this remain the same.
“I’m not going to change my mind on it, but at this point it’s not within my control.”
In the meantime, Myers says he will make the best of it.
“It happened. It’s behind us, so we need to start moving on,” Myers said.
“Tomorrow’s a new day, we need to move forward as a party, we need to move forward as a caucus, we need to move forward as an Island.”
The meeting Thursday was a difficult one for media to pin down. Party president Blake Doyle changed the time once and the location three times – the last change just over a half-hour before the meeting began.
The meeting itself was closed to media and the public, but The Guardian was told members of the executive asked Perry to sign a letter saying he would not run for the permanent leadership if chosen interim leader. He refused.
Myers reiterated Thursday he will not run in the leadership convention.
In the end, the 15 members present cast their ballots – 12 for Myers, three for Perry and zero for Clements. With this result, it is suspected Perry received votes from Crane, LaVie and himself.
Perry could not be reached for comment before deadline Thursday, as he was attending a meeting in Alberton.