Back in the 1970s, a group of Island Progressive Conservative supporters took it upon themselves to persuade Angus MacLean to run for the leadership of the P.E.I. party.
The late MacLean was Moses-like in his ability to part the political seas in favour of his Tories. He served in the House of Commons for 25 years, including a stint in the federal cabinet.
Beginning in 1966, provincial Tories could also relate to Moses, but not in MacLean’s positive way. Rather, like the biblical figure, they spent a long time in the wilderness.
One of the Tory strategists of the day in the mid-1970s was young lawyer Horace Carver and he, along with others, convinced MacLean to leave his comfy federal seat and seek the P.E.I. PC leadership. It turned out to be a good idea as he led Tories to the promised electoral land.
So it’s somewhat ironic that Carver’s name is now being mentioned as a candidate for the provincial PC leadership in much the same way as MacLean’s was — the fact the party needs someone to lead them out of the doldrums.
And these days the party is certainly back in the wilderness. It has suffered through several years of defeat, internal and public bickering over leadership and embarrassment in the public opinion polls.
Carver has not been officially approached by the PC party but I am told he is interested. A number of individuals, both inside and outside the party, have talked to him. In fact, several Liberal sympathizers have suggested he consider a run.
He certainly would not be a shoo-in to win the leadership. He doesn’t have Justin Trudeau’s hair, Robert Ghiz’s youth or Pat Binns’ trim figure. And, given the fact his days in politics were in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he may be yesterday’s man.
But Carver’s entry in the race would give the to-date leaderless leadership race a boost in credibility, where it is sorely lacking today. There’s a sense now that heading the PC party is like being named captain of the Titanic. Or, as Groucho Marx once said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”
Carver is well respected, knowledgeable and passionate about issues of importance to P.E.I. He recently headed up a comprehensive study of the Lands Protection Act.
The fact Premier Robert Ghiz named Carver to head the study points to the regard he holds Carver.
In addition to Carver, other capable names are being bandied about as PC leaders, individuals such as Jamie Fox, Rob Lantz, Gail Shea, Tim Ogilvie, Darren Peters, Clifford Lee, Fred O’Brien and Jason Lee.
The next provincial election could be as far away as April of 2016, or as early as the fall of 2015, depending on the date of the federal election. Island Tories are expected to hold a leadership convention this fall but it could be pushed back to the spring of 2015.
Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m not chairing Horace Carver’s run for the leadership. But the fact someone like him may seek the office changes the whole game. And for the 100,000-plus political junkies on P.E.I., it makes things a lot more interesting.
Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at email@example.com; or on Twitter.com/GaryGuardian.