Hal Perry, MLA for Tignish-Palmer Road, is leaving the Progressive Conservative Caucus and joining the Liberals.
Liberal Premier Robert Ghiz called a surprise news conference this morning to make the announcement.
Ghiz said Perry approached him two weeks ago, looking to cross the floor. He said Perry wanted to leave Tory Opposition mainly due to his concerns over the federal Conservative government’s EI changes.
“Hal has expressed deep concerns to me about the federal government’s overhaul of the employment insurance system,” Ghiz said.
“I know that these changes have had a profound affect on Islanders and I admire Hal’s passionate concerns about this issue.”
Perry was emotional during the press conference, tearing up as he talked about how he struggled with his decision to cross the floor.
But he said he was being stifled by his party when he wanted to speak out about the EI changes.
“As an MLA I hear very real concerns from constituents who feel they are being unfairly penalized by a federal government that has turned their back on them,” Perry said.
“As a member of the community I completely agree with their concerns. However, there is a genuine reluctance from the senior members of the Island Conservative party to address these issues and these concerns head on and in a constructive manner.”
As a member of the Liberal caucus, he feels he can now finally speak out against the Harper government’s EI reforms, he said.
“Now I have the freedom to speak out for the people of my area."
Ghiz would not say whether he promised a cabinet post to his newest caucus member, but would only say he ‘never makes any promises.’
He also said he believes this is the first time a sitting MLA has crossed the floor in P.E.I.
The Opposition Tories are scheduled to address the media later this morning to react to the news they have lost a member of their team.
The Guardian will continue to update this breaking story throughout the day.