The Progressive Conservative party of P.E.I. has reached an impasse over who should be the leader of the Opposition.
Party president Blake Doyle has asked the speaker of the P.E.I. legislature to recognize Interim Leader Steven Myers as Opposition leader.
The party has obtained a legal opinion that says Myers should be the rightful leader of the Opposition. Doyle sent his request and the legal opinion to Speaker Carolyn Bertram Thursday.
“There seems to be some lack of clarity on the concept of party leadership,” Doyle said in an interview with The Guardian Friday.
“From the party’s perspective, and we’re being guided by our constitution, it’s quite clear that the leader of the party, when sitting in the house, is the leader of the Opposition so because there’s been some confusion we’ve done our own research and we’ve compiled some information and presented that to the speaker and asked her to make a determination.”
But Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry remains firm he is Opposition leader. Earlier this week, Bertram recognized Perry as the official leader of the Opposition after he sent her a letter informing her he has the majority support of the five-member Tory caucus.
Perry said Friday he will not back down, despite the fact his own party is now acting against him.
“I have the support of caucus,” he said.
“This silliness has to stop and we have to get down to what we have to do. We were elected to represent the people within our own districts and all Islanders to hold this government to account.”
Myers was chosen by the party’s executive and caucus as interim party leader, while Perry has the support of at least three of the five-member Tory caucus. This has created an unprecedented and confusing situation with two elected MLAs within the same caucus splitting leadership roles that are usually filled by one person.
“This silliness has to stop and we have to get down to what we have to do. We were elected to represent the people within our own districts and all Islanders to hold this government to account," - Hal Perry
Doyle says the legal research the PC party obtained refutes Perry’s claim to the position.
“We’ve looked at Roberts Rules of Order, we’ve looked at the Legislative Assembly Act, we’ve looked at members’ handbook, we’ve looked at the Elections Act, we’ve looked at the precedent in the House of Commons and other legislatures across the country and we have consistently found the same occurrence,” Doyle said.
“The convention is that the leader of the party, when seated in the house, is the leader of the Opposition.”
Bertram released a statement Friday, confirming she recognized Perry as Opposition leader earlier this week.
Regarding the legal advice offered by the PC party, Bertram took a decidedly hands-off approach.
“ (I) will not become involved in the internal relationship between parliamentary caucus offices and political party offices. These are matters for the consideration of each respective office, and not for the speaker of the legislative assembly,” Bertram wrote in her statement.
She declined interviews Friday.
Both Myers and Perry said they have been continuing their Opposition work in the interim, but both were reluctant to comment on what effect this struggle for leadership may be having on the work of the Opposition office.
“I’m a professional and I put my professionalism above all else,” Myers said.
The party is scheduled to have a provincial council meeting Monday where members will have a chance to voice their opinions and concerns over the twists and turns the party has taken over the last few weeks.