New Conservative leader will lead party without input from Morell-Mermaid MLA
© Guardian photo
Olive Crane shouldn’t hold her breath waiting for an invitation from the Progressive Conservative Opposition caucus to return home. The newly independent MLA admitted in an interview last week she misses being part of the team, but says she’s content to remain as an independent until after the PC party holds a leadership convention in late 2014. Crane is holding out hope that “a real Progressive Conservative” will be elected leader and she will be invited back with open arms.
The Progressive Conservative party expelled Ms. Crane more than two weeks ago in an attempt to heal itself and start rebuilding. To welcome Ms. Crane back next fall, with a provincial election expected within a year or so, would be seen by many as a step back for the party which has undergone a massive upheaval over Ms. Crane’s leadership. It would render all that turmoil meaningless.
A powerful element of the party wants nothing to do with Ms. Crane — never did and never will. It was her attack on the so-called ‘backroom boys,’ following the defection of Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry to the Liberals, that precipitated her ouster. There were reports she was entertaining thoughts of leaving herself, so it was felt the party would be better off without her. Is this what a new leader wants to deal with?
She now sits as an Independent Progressive Conservative in a lonely office in the basement of the Coles Building with just a computer and a phone. She has no research or communications staff and little money or resources for third party office expenses. In many ways she resembles a nomadic Mike Duffy, who was booted from the Conservative caucus and faces a suspension from the Senate. Whatever power, perks or influence he had are gone forever. He is now irrelevant as a senator but is an annoying gadfly for his former boss Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Is this how Ms. Crane wants to be remembered?
Ms. Crane didn’t offer any thoughts on what would happen if she weren’t asked back into the PC caucus. Will she re-offer in Morell-Mermaid as an independent where voting along traditional party lines is a powerful factor and which will cost her numerous Tory votes? She is sure to poll well among her diehard supporters and others she signed up for the leadership convention and again last fall where she eked out a narrow win in a bitter leadership review.
Party insiders were openly speculating months ago about a candidate other than Ms. Crane to carry the PC banner in the next election in Morell-Mermaid. So either it was felt that Ms. Crane was not going to re-offer, or the party would not accept her as its candidate.
Maybe at some point Ms. Crane might have felt she had endured enough of the infighting and acrimony and maybe it was best for her and party that she retire gracefully. That option is likely gone. Now we have a stubborn Ms. Crane, angry over her ouster, who feels she can still win the seat as an independent PC and show the party’s urban elite than she still has clout and knows how to win.
The Liberals are certainly hoping she runs and so split the Tory vote, giving their candidate a chance to win. But before the Grits get too complacent, the NDP is sure to field a candidate and depending on his or her strength, there could be a sizeable drain on the centre-left vote. The NDP was running ahead of the Tories in the last two Corporate Research Associates polls. A substantial swing to the NDP will leave Crane’s riding and many others up for grabs.