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Decision night Friday for P.E.I. Tories as they choose new leader

Margaret Ann Walsh, interim president of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I., and party executive director Craig Davidson review the agenda for Friday’s PC leadership convention and annual general meeting. JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN
Margaret Ann Walsh, interim president of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I., and party executive director Craig Davidson review the agenda for Friday’s PC leadership convention and annual general meeting. JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Progressive Conservative party of P.E.I. will find out Friday who will be its new permanent leader.

The party’s leadership convention will be held Friday evening at the Rodd Brudenell Resort, where one final round of voting will be held.

Then all ballots cast in advance polls, by mail-in ballot and on-site will be tallied to reveal the electoral victor.

The two candidates - James Aylward and Brad Trivers – have both mounted strong campaigns and have challenged each other in what has become a closer race than many expected, said Margaret Anne Walsh, interim president of the PC party.

“I think anyone would say at the preliminary phase of this race it was looking like James Aylward was coming out ahead, but during the race Brad Trivers has certainly established himself as being very capable,” she said.

“They’ve both really stepped up during this race and I think either one of them would do a fabulous job.”

To date, approximately 3,000 ballots have been cast after all advance polls. This is more than the 2,140 votes cast in advance polls leading up to the 2015 leadership race, which had three candidates.

“I think anyone would say at the preliminary phase of this race it was looking like James Aylward was coming out ahead, but during the race Brad Trivers has certainly established himself as being very capable. They’ve both really stepped up during this race and I think either one of them would do a fabulous job.”

Margaret Anne Walsh

There are currently 6,600 members eligible to vote and, out of those, 3,700 members are paid up in full.

This means there are more PC voters who could vote in the leadership contest during the final voting opportunity on Friday evening.

Walsh says she has been pleased with the campaign and how it has operated and especially how it has energized the party in offering a chance for renewal.

“We’re really excited to have a new leader in place to take us into the next election and to build the party and start getting candidates lined up and really set what the policies of our party will be.”

Walsh noted this will be one of the key drivers for the party in building support as momentum and plans begin to build for the next scheduled provincial election in 2019.

The PC party has been without a permanent leader since 2015 when Rob Lantz resigned after failing to win a seat in the P.E.I. legislature.

This has placed the party in a holding pattern when it comes to developing policy and taking stances on issues such as electoral or campaign financing reform.

“People are turning to us to define what we stand for, so we’re looking forward to entering that period for our party to redefine ourselves, tell people what we’re all about and what our values are,” Walsh said.

“We’ve had an interim leader for such a long period now that we haven’t been able to clearly define ourselves, so I’m very excited at the thought of having a permanent leader in place come Friday, and then we can start to build around that leader and move into the next election.”

Voting for PC leadership will wrap up at 7 p.m. Results are expected between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m..

The Guardian will have full, up-to-the-minute coverage online with full details in Saturday’s print and e-editions.

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