© Guardian photo
Speaker Carolyn Bertram. FILE PHOTO
The speaker of the P.E.I. legislature has officially recognized Hal Perry as Opposition leader.
Perry received a letter of recognition from Speaker Carolyn Bertram this week. It serves as official confirmation of his status as the leader of the official Opposition.
"It's always nice to have confirmation of what you believe is right," Perry said in an interview with The Guardian Wednesday.
There has been much confusion about leadership roles within the Progressive Conservative party over the last few weeks now that two MLAs within the Tory caucus hold key leadership roles.
Georgetown-St. Peters MLA Steven Myers was chosen by the party's executive and caucus as interim party leader while Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry has the majority of the five Tory MLAs supporting him as Opposition leader.
It's an unprecedented situation for two elected members within the same caucus splitting these roles and this serves as a daily physical reminder of the PC party's deep divisions.
That's why some members of the party are questioning the legality of Perry's claim to the Opposition leader position.
Charlottetown lawyer Geoff Connolly says the party's constitution says the interim party leader has the same authority as a permanent leader, and since Myers has a seat in the legislature, should thus be the natural Opposition leader.
Choosing Opposition leader by a majority vote of caucus is questionable, Connolly said.
"I'm not aware of anything that would give (the caucus) the authority to choose the leader that way," he said.
"I've yet to hear anyone point to something that says this is their authority for doing this. So I'm at a bit of a loss as to how it's going to be valid."
Connolly pointed to the fact former leader Olive Crane announced her intention to resign as party leader almost two months in advance and later the party planned its executive meeting to vote on her replacement just two days after she left.
He and other party insiders have expressed dismay at the caucus meeting held on the one day in between Crane's resignation and the interim leader election during which Perry put his name forward for Opposition leader and won the title with the support of Crane and Souris-Elmira MLA Colin LaVie.
"Does that mean if, in a situation like this, if the Liberals didn't like the performance of Robert Ghiz, the caucus could organize a revolt and we'd have a new premier if they could get a majority of caucus?" Connolly said.
"I think that's unprecedented, you can't have a coup like that."
But Perry remains firm he is Opposition leader, especially now that he has the recognition of the speaker.
He questioned the motivation of those within the party who question his claim to the position.
"I'm not sure what their agenda is," Perry said.
"There will always be naysayers. It's unfortunate that we're losing focus on what good we can do and it's the negative that's being brought forward. Until that negative is controlled, they're giving the media something to write about."
Members are scheduled to gather for a provincial council meeting on Monday - a meeting that was postponed due to last Monday's snowstorm.
Heated debate is expected on the issue of the double leadership issue now facing the party.
Perry said he hopes to be able to discuss the concerns of the members at this meeting and "deal with these issues, once and for all."