Rob Lantz is staying on as leader of the Progressive Conservative party, despite having no seat in the P.E.I. legislature.
“I think it’s the best thing for our party at this point,” Lantz told reporters Monday at the Opposition office in Charlottetown.
Flanked by the eight members who did win their seats under the PC party banner in last week’s election, Lantz said he has their full support and the unanimous support of the party executive to continue on as party leader outside the rail.
“It’s only a couple of months ago that we underwent a leadership convention… I’m committed to this party, I’m committed to finishing what I started and the biggest factor is the caucus standing here behind me today has given me their full and undivided support.”
Lantz lost the Charlottetown-Brighton riding to rookie Liberal candidate Jordan Brown by just 24 votes.
Since that time, he says he has received an outpouring of support from both members and non-members of the party encouraging him to stay. He acknowledged it is an unusual situation, but that he felt it was the best decision to help move the party forward united after years of infighting and leadership squabbles.
“Certainly it’s a bit unconventional, but the political landscape of P.E.I. is changed,” Lantz said.
“But we see this as a very workable arrangement and with the support of my colleagues here, I’m 100 per cent confident we can make it happen.”
Meanwhile, Opposition leadership roles will remain as they were before the election. Steven Myers will be Opposition leader in the legislature, James Aylward will be Opposition house leader and Colin LaVie will be whip.
The decision on Opposition leadership roles, which come with higher salaries than the base MLA salary of $68,721, was made by the caucus on Lantz’s recommendation.
The PC party underwent a major upheaval over leadership roles in early 2013.
Myers dismissed any suggestion that Lantz remaining party leader for the next four years while he acts as Opposition leader would create similar confusion over who is in charge.
“Rob Lantz is the leader and he’s my boss. Period,” Myers said.
Aylward, who challenged Lantz for party leadership in February, says he is “very supportive of how we’re proceeding.
“Rob Lantz was democratically elected by the membership of the PC party of P.E.I. and I said on that night, Feb. 28, that I am behind Rob Lantz as the leader of our party and nothing has changed.”
Although he plans to make this his full-time job for the next four years, Lantz says does not know yet how he will be paid. He did not rule out using taxpayer funds through the Opposition office’s budget.
“That is absolutely an unknown at this point, it certainly gives me some anxiety and certainly my family, I’m sure, but we’re going to have to make some arrangements for me to make a living.”
The PC party constitution does stipulate that a leadership review must be held not less than 12 months and not more than 26 months following a provincial election where the party does not form government and the leader does not resign.