Seeking clues for PC blues in Hollywood

Gary MacDougall
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Observers of P.E.I.'s political scene could be forgiven if the Abbott and Costello comedy skit ‘Who's on First?' comes to mind when they look at the current state of Toryville P.E.I.

Observers of P.E.I.'s political scene could be forgiven if the Abbott and Costello comedy skit ‘Who's on First?' comes to mind when they look at the current state of Toryville P.E.I.

Just like Abbott couldn't get it through his head who was on first base, it may soon be difficult to figure out who is speaking on behalf of the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Party.

Olive Crane has announced she plans to step down as party leader later this month. That decision announced on Dec. 5 came after months of mounting discontent in the party with her leadership, largely fuelled by the fact the party has been languishing in opinion polls in spite of unpopular actions by the ruling Liberals.

At the same time as Crane announced she was stepping down as party leader, she said she would stay on as Opposition leader. An opposition leader leads her or his party during the high-profile P.E.I. legislature sessions; it's an important position that attracts a lot of public attention.

So what Crane actually announced was that while she won't be the leader of the PC party, she'll remain the point person when the house is in session.

Hmm, that Abbott and Costello thing is creeping back into my head.


The PC party is now in search of an interim leader, someone who will serve as leader of the party until a new permanent leader is selected in a couple of years. That interim leader will be chosen by the PC Party executive and caucus and it can be someone who is already an MLA, or someone who is not elected.

If it's someone who isn't an MLA, the water gets muddy in terms of who speaks for Island Tories. It would be the interim leader when the legislature isn't sitting, but what weight would he or she have when the house is sitting and Crane is running the show?

All of this brings another entertainment image to mind: the movie ‘A Few Good Men'.

Without sounding sexist — they're all men, after all — the obvious path out of the Tory turmoil is for one of the four PC MLAs to man up and take one for the good of the party.

Either James Aylward, Hal Perry, Stephen Myers or Colin LaVie needs to be named interim party leader. Having that happen would eliminate the always-awkward situation of having a non-elected person speak on behalf of a party that has five duly elected MLAs.

After all, what are they? Potato culls not worthy of representing the party for a few months? I don't think so. All have performed quite adequately since their election.

And whichever one is named interim leader must also take over the reins as Opposition leader when the next legislature session comes around — whether Ms. Crane likes it or not. In that regard, the interim leader would need the support of fellow caucus members.

The idea of having two ‘leaders' is a non-starter for the party if it is serious about presenting itself as an alternative to the ruling Liberals.

Looking at the PC Fab Four (sans Crane who obviously can't return as leader), some of them may have aspirations of seeking the permanent leadership of the party, and if so, they can understandably be excused from being interim leader. But it's unlikely all four have that ambition.

In spite of the turmoil, confusion and bad blood that currently exists in the PC party, the path to a brighter Tory future is clear.

Here's the recipe: select an interim leader from among the sitting MLAs; ensure that person is also the Opposition leader; work at healing factions in the party; hold an invigorating leadership campaign and when the next election rolls around, go to battle against the Liberals, not fellow Conservatives.

Now back to more entertainment images, this time from the movie ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan'.

In it Spock says, "It's logical, the needs of the many outweigh..."

"...The needs of the few," said Captain Kirk in finishing Spock's sentence.

"Or the one," said Spock.

Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at; or on Twitter @GaryGuardian.

Organizations: Tory, PC Party, The Guardian

Geographic location: P.E.I., Hollywood

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Recent comments

  • Bertie
    January 16, 2013 - 15:37

    The PC party has outlived its usefulness. Most of the people who used to vote for it may as well vote NDP now. Olive tried to clean it up but one cannot chase off snakes and charm them at the same time. In the end what is left over is a bunch of old Binns spongers, neighbour hating Harperites, scammers in cahoots with Ghiz and Maritime unionists. Time to stick to both Ghiz and Harper, and vote NDP! Thanks.

  • politics, all the same
    January 13, 2013 - 15:41

    and perhaps THE TWIT RACE by Monty Python for the "other" big party?

  • upwest proud
    January 13, 2013 - 14:23

    C'mon Garth, you must know the leader of the opposition is the person who leads the party with the second most seats in the house. This position was even held by a separatist in the House of Commons when Lucien Bouchard let the Bloc to a second place finish in the 1993 election. Mella and McKinley both held the position as lone elected members of their respective parties. There have been many interim leaders who filled the position over time but never, never has there been an interim leaders and opposition in the same legislature at the same time. If Crane sits as an independent she is just that, an independent MLA, she could become leader of the 3rd party if she had party affiliation with another party, the leader of the opposition would have to be held by a member of the party with the second most seats, in this case the PCs. The clerk would have to call on that caucus to submit the name of their leader in the assembly which would force the 4 member to name the leader of their caucus. I have to say the 4 are appearing very weak by letting this go on so long.

    • Garth Staples
      January 13, 2013 - 18:41

      And Gass/Bagnall? Ghiz/McKinley? McKinley was never leader of the Lib Party.

  • how about ship of fools
    January 13, 2013 - 09:50

    What about the "Ship of fools" title which best represents Doyle and his gang?

  • Islandwoman
    January 13, 2013 - 08:58

    What is the point of you continuing to attack the PC's and in particular Olive Crane? Why don't you educate yourself as to the rules of the PC party and stop this nonsense?

  • upwest proud
    January 13, 2013 - 08:37

    Garth, NEVER has the leader of the opposition and the leader of any island party been 2 different people IF they were both members of the legislature. By insisting she will remain leader of the opposition Crane is eliminating the other 4 MLAs as potential interim leaders and at the same time she says she won't do the job. To add insult to injury she continues to say she is putting the party first, don't know about you Garth but she is done fooling me.

    • Garth Staples
      January 13, 2013 - 11:09

      Yah can't be leader of the opposition if you are not elected. Opposition Leader is a function of the Legislature, not a party. Mel Gass was leader, Hon Leone Bagnall was the opposition Leader. If the 4 MLA's don't want the position of LO then it falls to Olive . She could declare herself an independent and be LO. How would that work?

  • It's not that funny
    January 13, 2013 - 08:13

    this situation all stated with those damn backroom boys in Charlottetown. They just couldn't stand a great woman like Olive running the party. Now look at things. They keep messing things up even though they didn't get their way. Every body knows the Conservative party will bounce back and be the next government on this here Island. but we need to get rid of the people that are in there just to look after our backroom boys. We need a new president and that's for sure. He's little more than a Liberal sympathizer. As for Olive leading in the house - well obviously it has to be her. She's head and shoulders over the other four men. Carry on olive we got your back!

  • cromwell
    January 13, 2013 - 07:59

    I guess that one of the few benefits working for 'The Guardian' is that you can write absolute drivel, with the surety it will be posted. I realise that 'The Guardian' is another left-wing rag and, as such, accept that articles and editorials will be biased towards this position. However, when I look at the credentials and behavior of the other parties, I can plainly see that there really is little to choose between them since, on PEI, nepotism reigns supreme.

  • don
    January 12, 2013 - 14:42

    Gary MacDougall. why are you insulting the greatest team there ever was. the head shots of the PC party on PEI are the killers of the party i think they are helping the other party. they need to be GONE kicked out voted out OF THE PARTY FOREVER. MARK MY WORDS WITH THEM IN THE BACKROOM I CAN SEE NO OTHER PC EVER GETTING VOTED IN AGAIN IN MY LIFE TIME.

  • Garth Staples
    January 12, 2013 - 12:49

    I am told the aging process brings with it memory loss or memory confusion. The position of the leader of the Opposition is a function of the Legislature, not the 'Party'. Unless the stars are perfectly aligned the leadership of the Party and the Leg's leader of the Opposition may not always coincide. There are plenty of examples including Ghiz/McKinnley.Others are Gass/Bagnell. Perhaps there is aging at the Guardian. Technically the Opposition functions with a Party relationship via membership. Parties are not the Legislature. Elected members are. I hope this joggs some failing memories.

    January 12, 2013 - 11:34

    So Gary, if the Conservatives are Abbot and Costello, Then Ghiz and his crew are the Keystone Kops!

    • Ed Gallant
      January 12, 2013 - 11:47

      Gary,one movie you forgot to mention is "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. Probably more apt, as no one is in charge. Or is Nurse Ratchett really in charge?