The Opposition Tories are hoping to put party divisions behind them now that one person once again holds the title of both Opposition leader and party leader.
On Thursday morning, interim Progressive Conservative leader Steven Myers was named Opposition leader by consensus of the five-member Tory caucus.
Myers says he believes this will be a big step forward in uniting the party after months of infighting and division.
“We’re going to move on to a unified front of fighting this government and doing the work of Opposition,” Myers said in an interview.
Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry was the last person to hold the position of Opposition leader, but his brief time in this role was controversial. He came to the position in a vote held the day before the party was to choose its interim leader, garnering the support of only three of the five MLAs in caucus.
After Myers was voted interim leader, this created a situation with two elected MLAs within the same caucus splitting leadership roles usually filled by one person — a scenario many thought was confusing and divisive.
After less than two weeks and efforts by his own party to have House Speaker Carolyn Bertram recognize Myers instead, Perry announced earlier this week he would vacate the position of Opposition leader.
On Thursday, the five MLAs had a caucus meeting where, this time, Myers was the only person to put his name forward for the job.
He said he hopes to now leave recent disagreements over leadership behind and focus on the job of Opposition — holding government to account for its spending and policy decisions.
“We’re back on task to take on the government and, once we’re doing that, it’s not going to be too hard to unify a party against this government,” he said.
But the PC party has been in turmoil for months with division over leadership continuously being a very public point of contention. Approximately 130 members showed up to a provincial council meeting of the party earlier this week, one of the largest turnouts ever for these meetings. Several members expressed deep concern over the effects current divisions may have on the party over the long-term.
Myers acknowledged that many within the party will need time to heal, perhaps even within his own caucus. But he remains confident this can happen as the party gets back to work in Opposition and in developing the party’s policies and platform.
“If there are hurt feelings, time is a great healer and we’ll band together on the topics of tackling government in the coming weeks and that will be the unifier.”
Perry will now assume the role of Opposition house leader while Stratford-Kinlock James Aylward will take over the role of Opposition whip. Previously, Myers served as Opposition house leader and Perry was whip.
Myers added he will be shuffling his caucus’ portfolios, but will not be dismissing any staff. Former Charlottetown mayor George MacDonald, who was hired recently under a short-term contract to act as office manager, will also remain.