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Five candidates considering a run for P.E.I. PC leadership

Logo of the Progressive Conservative Party on P.E.I.
Logo of the Progressive Conservative Party on P.E.I.

The official rules have yet to be released, but the rumour mills have been churning.

Almost four weeks after the sudden announcement that James Aylward would be resigning as PC leader, no candidate has officially announced that they will be seeking the party’s leadership. But speculation of who might step forward is in abundant supply.

Four candidates have confirmed to The Guardian they are considering a run, or at least showing “interest” in the position.

Kevin Arsenault
Kevin Arsenault
Allan Dale
Allan Dale

Several sources within the PC Party privately told The Guardian that Dennis King is considered a possible candidate.

King is a professional storyteller, a published author and a member of the Four Tellers, along with Gary Evans, David Weale and Alan Buchanan.

He has also been politically involved in the past, serving as a communications director of former premier Pat Binns. He is well known as a member of the CBC political panel, which often debates the issues of the day on Island Morning.

But King would only confirm he is thinking about running.

"People are encouraging me to run but it's not moved much beyond that," King told The Guardian.

He said “several hundred” people have encouraged him to run over the last few weeks.

"If that many people are thinking I should think about it, perhaps I owe it to them to think about it," King said. "I'm a long way from a decision."

Only one already declared PC candidate is considering a run for leader.

Sarah Stewart-Clark was nominated as the PC candidate in Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park in July. At the time of her nomination, she credited then-leader James Aylward as her inspiration for running.

“Seeking the leadership is something I'm giving serious consideration to due to the number of Islanders who are asking me to be their voice,” Stewart-Clark said. “Now more than ever, Islanders are seeking leaders with integrity and whose motivations are to truly serve in the best interests of all Islanders.”

Stewart-Clark works as an associate professor at Dalhousie’s department of animal science and aquaculture. She is an outspoken mental health advocate and a founder of the group Mothers Helping Mothers.

Dennis King
Dennis King
Sarah Stewart-Clark
Sarah Stewart-Clark

Retired naval officer Allan Dale did not overtly admit to The Guardian that he was considering a run for the leadership, but suggested he was consulting with family and colleagues.

"I'm just looking at what's happening, looking at the landscape, putting that into the context of what's happening in P.E.I., but I certainly haven't declared anything yet," Dale said. "[I’m] certainly watching what's coming with some interest."

Dale currently works as the director of industry partnerships at UPEI’s School of Sustainable Design Engineering. He said he does not currently have close connections to the PC Party, partly due to his 30-year career in the Canadian Navy. Naval staff are bound to an ethical code that requires they be non-partisan.

Frenchfort dairy farmer Bloyce Thompson said he has also been approached by individuals in the farming community about running for the leadership position. He did not confirm to The Guardian, however, whether he was fully considering the possibility.

“Probably still premature to say I’m considering,” Thompson said in an email to The Guardian.

Thompson took part in a recent rally of dairy farmers at Pooles Corner, which interrupted an infrastructure announcement by local Liberal MP and federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay. Island farmers organized the rally to urge MacAulay to vote against the proposed USMCA, a replacement of NAFTA. The new trade deal would give increased market access to American dairy and poultry products.

Bloyce Thompson
Bloyce Thompson

Of all the possible candidates, Kevin J. Arsenault - a past president of the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers - was the most vocal about his willingness to run for the leadership position.

"I am all in in terms of the intent at this point, but I'll have to go through the process and ultimately be confirmed by the search committee of the PC Party," Arsenault said.

The details of the process involved in applications for leadership candidates have not yet been released by the PC Party executive.

Arsenault, who currently works as a market gardener, is a vocal political blogger and critic of both the P.E.I. government and local media outlets. He is an anti-abortion activist and was a keynote speaker at this year’s March for Life in Charlottetown.

If he succeeds in being approved as a leadership candidate, he said he would focus on an anti-corruption message.

"People are hungry for a government and a leader of a party that will put an end to government corruption,” said Arsenault. “I intend to do that.”

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