Six years as leader earned Crane face-to-face meeting with Myers
© Guardian photo
Outgoing PC Leader Olive Crane is flanked by fellow Progressive Conservative MLAs, James Aylward, left, and Hal Perry during the news conference announcing her resignation as PC leader.
In her tumultuous seven years as a key player in the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I., Olive Crane developed the uncanny ability to become a very polarizing figure. But no matter what your personal feelings, she didn’t deserve the way in which she was turfed out of the PC caucus late Friday afternoon.
She was party leader for six years, either on an interim or fulltime basis. She was left to pick up the pieces from Pat Binns, taking over as interim leader following the party’s annihilation in the 2007 election. She deserved a better fate than a phone call at 3:50 p.m. to tell her she was being turfed.
And her crime? She dared speak her mind to The Guardian about the defection of friend and colleague Hal Perry, the MLA for Tignish-Palmer Road on Thursday. What she said wasn’t all that new or controversial. She alluded to certain members of the party who had created divisions last year, and which remain deep and prevalent.
But she declared her loyalty and expressed her desire to remain and work as the PC member for Morell-Mermaid.
Her comments didn’t violate cabinet solidarity or any such serious sin; it was a request from Myers not to comment on the Perry issue. This is still a democracy where elected officials should be able to speak their minds. The Crane ouster only validated the decision by Perry to leave because he felt muzzled by caucus.
Ms. Crane’s defiance was enough for Mr. Myers, his remaining caucus members and senior party members whom Myers consulted. It was felt that Ms. Crane would always be a loose cannon and a distraction the party could not afford as it rebuilds towards a leadership convention and the next provincial election.
Every party has these dog days. When Ron MacKinley was the lone Liberal who barely hung on following the Pat Binns’ steamroller in the 2000 election, there were questions if that party could rebound. The answer was yes.
It can be argued that Mr. Myers deserves credit for making the very tough decision to boot a former leader. The ouster might attract strong leadership candidates more comfortable with the party now that Ms. Crane is out of the way and won’t be looking over his or her shoulder.
Ms. Crane was often criticized for her persistent questions on the PNP program which many felt were unwarranted. Her attacks left the impression that anyone who got PNP was somehow under suspicion.
The constant revolving door with chiefs of staff, suggestions she was ruthless in the backroom, and her refusal to compromise, suggest that maybe she was the problem and not everyone else.
Ms. Crane insists she will sit as an independent and there are many in Morell-Mermaid who will continue to support her. She could well return the favour to the Liberals in the traditional Tory riding by splitting the right-wing vote in the next election by running as an independent and allow the Liberals or NDP to win by default. It was the Morell civil war in 2007 which split the Liberal vote and allowed Crane to win in the face of the Ghiz landslide.
In the final analysis, rightly or wrongly, Crane had to go. If the party is to rebuild, it has to be without her.
Unfortunately, the Liberals have gotten a free ride for too long. No one is challenging them and the house sits in just over a month. And once again, the government will face a fractured and sullen opposition. For that, Ms. Crane must accept her share of responsibility.