Doyle steps aside as PC party president

Teresa Wright
Published on May 23, 2014

Progressive Conservative party leader Steven Myers, left, is joined by party president Blake Doyle in welcoming Member of Parliament Lisa Raitt, federal Minister of Labour to the P.E.I. party's annual spring fundraising dinner. The event was held Friday, May 31, 2013 at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown.

©Nigel Armstrong - The Guardian

The Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. now has an interim party president as well as an interim leader.

Blake Doyle quietly resigned as president last week, halfway through his second term in the position.

The new interim president of the PC party is Peter McQuaid. He formerly served as chief of staff to former premier Pat Binns.

In an interview with The Guardian, Doyle said he felt he has achieved what he set out to do with the party. Now that all political parties in the province are shifting focus toward the next election, he says a change in direction was needed.

“My role was more operational, organization. This is a different cycle and it’s probably not my skillset,” Doyle said. “I recognize that and I’m quite prepared to step away.”

Doyle has been at the helm for some of the most turbulent times the party has faced in recent memory.

He was elected president during a dramatic AGM in 2012 that saw hundreds of members turn out for a vote on whether to force a leadership review of former party leader Olive Crane.

She narrowly escaped the leadership review only to resign a few weeks later, leading to more turmoil when MLAs Steven Myers and Hal Perry went to battle over who would take over as Opposition and interim party leader.

More upheaval followed when Perry crossed the floor to join the Liberals and the very next day, Myers kicked Crane out of the Tory Opposition caucus.

This has left Progressive Conservatives with only three MLAs in caucus and a daily visual reminder of divisions within the party with Crane sitting across the legislative chamber as an independent PC MLA.

Soft-spoken and media shy, Doyle admits it was a challenge to be president of a party going through such ‘calamity,’ as he puts it.

“I came into an environment that was tumultuous and it stayed very dynamic really the entire time that I had the opportunity to be in the role that I had,” he said.

Doyle also admits he clashed with some party members over the direction he saw for the party.

“I think anytime there’s an organization of volunteers that you don’t have much influence to wield power over, there’s going to be conflict,” he said.

“I outlined a plan that I was committed to executing on, and some people supported that and some people didn’t.”

He says that these personality clashes were not the reason for his resignation. He remains on good terms with the party and will continue on the executive as past-president.

As for the leadership convention, that remains a question mark.

The party previously announced it would be held this fall, but is also considering pushing it back, since the election may not be held until the spring of 2016.

With the incumbent Liberals already holding nomination meetings in preparation for a possible fall 2015 election, time is running short for a leadership convention.

“There’s work being done on the organization of it,” Doyle said, deferring further inquiries to McQuaid as new interim president.

McQuaid did not return The Guardian’s calls.