P.E.I. Tories consider leadership delay

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 3, 2014

Interim leader of the Island Progressive Conservatives, Steven Myers, speaks at the party's annual general meeting. FILE PHOTO

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Tories in P.E.I. may be waiting a little longer than originally planned to choose a new party leader.

Premier Robert Ghiz announced the next provincial election will be moved to the spring of 2016, so the Progressive Conservative party may want to change its plans for a leadership convention, party president Blake Doyle told The Guardian Friday.

“We had formally advised the membership in October that our plan was to go ahead with a leadership convention in the fall of 2014, but since then we’ve had confirmation of what the election timetable is, which is now April 2016,” Doyle said in an interview.

“I think we have to reevaluate that timetable.”

The PC party is looking to leave behind the troubles it has faced over the last two years and start building toward the next election.

A leadership convention has been cited as a way to reunite the membership and build excitement for the party’s brand.

That’s why it was scheduled for the fall of 2014.

With the provincial election still two-and-a-half years away, some party insiders believe it would be better to wait until closer to 2016 before holding a leadership convention.

This is especially important, as the party may not necessarily be in a position to pay its next leader, if it turns out not be one of the current Tory MLAs, whose salaries are paid by taxpayers through the legislative assembly.

These are all issues that will be discussed by the party executive at its upcoming meeting next week.

A committee will also be struck to examine the feasibility of online voting for the party leader at the next convention. This was agreed in a motion passed at the PC party’s recent AGM in Summerside.

In the meantime, preparations for the 2016 election have already begun.

Doyle began the new year with a call to the membership, asking for donations toward the party’s election readiness fund.

He said he was surprised by the positive response he received.

“We do have some well-developed plans for what we hope to achieve for fundraising, but this one was really just a last-minute decision to reach out to the membership,” he said.

“I didn’t have any real hard-and-fast goals for it, but it surprised me the response we received on fairly short notice, so it’s been quite successful, in my opinion.”

The party also recently held a series of regional policy round table discussions, aimed at gathering input from Islanders toward the development of a comprehensive policy document.

Doyle said he was encouraged by the level of participation in these sessions.

“Each region had very unique concerns, unique to the area. So while we had some common threads – concerns over the economy, job creation, out-migration to Alberta, health care – the issues are also very localized.”

Doyle said he hopes to see the party host another series of meetings, these ones open to the public and non-partisan, focused on weighty policy issues and concerns such as addictions and mental health.

Final decisions on whether to move the convention date are not expected for another several weeks, Doyle added.