Conservatives move to election footing with wartime interim president in control
P.E.I. Tories are taking seriously the message there might be a provincial election next year. Party president Blake Doyle, seen as a compromise candidate elected in 2012 during the internal upheaval over former leader Olive Crane, has stepped aside to make way for a wartime interim president in Peter McQuaid.
Mr. McQuaid was chief of staff in the glory years of former Premier Pat Binns when the big blue machine carried Mr. Binns to victory in three majority governments before being swept from office by the red tide under Robert Ghiz in 2007.
The fact is that Mr. McQuaid is a seasoned election-time president so essential in raising money, fielding candidates and running a campaign. Mr. Doyle is not.
The former president was seen as a Ms. Crane loyalist which put him at odds with most of the caucus and executive. But he was able to bridge gaps between the warring factions and helped hold the party together during its recent troubles.
Now with Premier Ghiz openly speculating there could be a provincial election in October 2015, if not sooner, the Progressive Conservatives realize its time to get into a solid pre-election footing as soon as possible.
The next election was planned for April 2016 but a fall 2015 date could open if Prime Minister Stephen Harper decides to go to the polls next spring, as is being widely speculated in Ottawa.
Under Mr. Doyle, the party did hold a series of organizational meetings in ridings across the province but failed to deal with the critical issues of a firm date for a leadership convention, attracting candidates to run for leader and getting people to declare their interest in the 24 open provincial ridings. The three issues go hand in hand and proved the undoing of Mr. Doyle.
A strong leader coming out of a united,
enthusiastic convention will go a long way to attracting quality candidates at the constituency level. The knock on Mr. Doyle is that his skill-set was with operational party matters and not on election preparedness.
Now with the pressure of time constraints, Mr. McQuaid is the president better suited to get the party election-ready as soon possible. As election fever heightens, look for an even harder edge with the Tories outside the legislature under Mr. McQuaid and inside the rails under new chief of staff Michael Drake.
NAF enters P.E.I. debate
The abortion debate is hardening on P.E.I., much to the discomfort of the provincial government which remains adamant in maintaining the status quo. The National Abortion Federation has entered the fray, making a proposal that would see three doctors come to P.E.I. to perform abortions in an Island hospital. The NAF proposal is supposed to be cost neutral and allow Island women access to abortion services in this province.
The NAF says its proposal has been intentionally stalled by a lack of political will to change the current policy.
The federation is planning a press conference Wednesday to discuss new details in the abortion debate and have on hand one of the doctors willing to travel here to perform abortions.
This comes on the heels of a large pro-life rally held in Charlottetown on Sunday which attracted hundreds of marchers from across the province.
And it comes following a powerful opinion page article from former P.E.I. Chief Justice Gerard Mitchell on the 1988 Morgantaler court decision striking down criminal sections of the abortion law. Mr. Mitchell said none of the seven judges held there was a constitutional right to abortion on demand and all judges acknowledged the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn.
Mr. Mitchell's arguments tend to add more emphasis on the rights of the unborn which appear to have eroded over the passing years.