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EDITORIAL: Time to end squabbling

Dennis King announces his bid for the P.E.I. PC leadership at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown Wednesday night.
Dennis King announces his bid for the P.E.I. PC leadership at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown last Wednesday night. - Mitch MacDonald

All candidates should save their attacks for the government, and not get drawn into inside squabbling that has hurt the party terribly in the past.

A front-runner usually gets special scrutiny and criticism, a time-honoured strategy that is especially true in politics. Dennis King is perceived as the early favourite in the leadership race for the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. He’s also perceived as the choice of the party’s inner circle.

The deadline for nominations is tomorrow, and barring any surprises, the four declared candidates to date will be on the ballot at the party’s leadership convention in early February.

Already, Mr. King is in the crosshairs, drawing criticism about his campaign team. Instead of attacking the Liberal government or Green Party, which is running even or slightly ahead in the polls, candidates in the PC leadership race are going after Mr. King. It’s not an auspicious start.

Mr. King officially launched his leadership bid last week in his home town of Georgetown with an impressive rally, suggesting he has strong support and money behind him. Both are essential to a successful leadership bid and he shouldn’t be criticized because he appears to have those supports in place.

The launch by Shawn Driscoll was a media release, Alan Dale held a news conference and Sarah Stewart-Clark upped the ante with an event at UPEI to announce her entry.

The key criticism against Mr. King has nothing to do with his views on guiding the party. Instead, it’s because the former chief of staff in the PC caucus office, Adam Ross, resigned that position last week to join the King campaign. There are suggestions it gives Mr. King an unfair advantage because Mr. Ross played a key role in setting the ground rules for the convention.

Mr. Ross should not be disqualified from supporting whomever he wants. He is now a private citizen. What is of more concern is the impact his departure will have on the party’s organizational abilities preparing for daily question period and holding the government to account in the legislature.

Mr. Ross severed his official connection to the party to work with a longtime friend. Is it really any more than that? There were also some suggestions about restricted access to party membership lists but those should be available to all candidates. It’s hard to understand what all the fuss is about.

Leadership issues have been a public soap opera distracting the party since the divisive leadership campaign between Olive Crane and Jamie Ballem to replace Pat Binns, and beyond. Those inner party battles played a major role in keeping the Conservatives in opposition. As a note of caution to Mr. King, and a note of encouragement to the other candidates, Mr. Ballem was the perceived choice of party insiders, yet Ms. Crane mobilized rural members to carry the day.

It was Mr. Driscoll who raised the issues of “backroom dealings and actions that smack of an ‘old boys club’” and old-style politics. Those kind of word associations need to be buried, once and for all. All candidates should save their attacks for the government, and not get drawn into inside squabbling that has hurt the party terribly in the past.

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