Hal Perry says he has no intention of stepping aside as Opposition leader, despite the fact his fellow Tory MLA Steven Myers has been elected interim PC party leader.
Perry was elected Opposition leader on Wednesday by a majority of the five-member Tory caucus.
But after Myers was elected interim party leader in a vote of 12 to 3 by the Progressive Conservative Party’s executive and MLAs on Thursday, some have suggested Perry should relinquish his position to Myers.
In an interview with The Guardian Friday, Perry said he is staying put.
“I’m not hearing from the membership that (the two positions) should only be one person. They’re overwhelmingly giving me their support,” he said.
“I think that it’s fantastic that we have two people. I think we can work together. We have one from the east and one from the west, what more can we ask for? This is a fantastic situation that’s playing out in front of us.”
But not everyone in the party sees things so positively. It has created a confusing and unprecedented situation with two MLAs in the same caucus holding key leadership roles.
As Opposition leader, Perry represents Islanders as a watchdog to government and an advocate on public issues and initiatives. He leads his fellow Opposition members in scrutinizing legislation to ensure it is properly considered and that alternate views on public policy are brought forward and debated.
As interim party leader, Myers is responsible for the PC party of P.E.I., its members, rules and policies. He must ensure all 27 districts have active and healthy associations, he must oversee spending and fundraising initiatives and must help develop sound policies and rules that reflect the ideals of the membership.
The party executive and elected MLAs vote for interim party leader. The Opposition leader is chosen only by the five MLAs and must be an elected member of the legislature to hold the position.
“The same could have been asked of Steven (Myers) — why didn’t he withdraw his name going into (the interim leader election) just to avoid this confusion? But I don’t like to point fingers. We have to stop pointing fingers and rebuild,” - Hal Perry, Opposition leader
However, this is believed to be the first time in P.E.I. history these two positions have been split between two MLAs that belong to the same party within the same caucus.
The positions have been split before, but only when the party leader does not have a seat in the legislature.
Perry said he knows there is confusion about the dual leadership positions and the differing roles they play.
He also said the party’s so-called ‘backroom’ has been trying to convince him to abandon his claim to the Opposition leader position and allow Myers to take over and allow the party to move forward under one leader.
But Perry said he has no intention of backing away.
“I really believe this can work and I’m not prepared to step aside,” he said.
“The same could have been asked of Steven (Myers) — why didn’t he withdraw his name going into (the interim leader election) just to avoid this confusion? But I don’t like to point fingers. We have to stop pointing fingers and rebuild.”
Myers has said he believes one person should hold both positions.
“I’m not going to change my mind on it but at this point it’s not within my control,” Myers told reporters Thursday.
Perry has the support of former party leader Olive Crane and Souris-Elmira MLA Colin LaVie. And as long as he has their support, he can remain leader of the Opposition.
He insists this will be positive for the party, and that he and Myers will be able to work together for the good of the PC party.