Blind loyalty won’t stop the PC Party from sinking
Olive Crane’s exit as leader of the PC Party of PEI is as graceless as any in living memory. In their selfish attempt to even scores, both real and perceived, Crane and her caucus colluders, Hal Perry and Colin Lavie, are leaving a swath of destruction that is an embarrassment to themselves, the party and Islanders.
Olive Crane is smart. She is a good person who has worked hard as an MLA and Leader of the Opposition. She has suffered the ignominy of backroom knives being thrust in her back at every turn. She and her supporters are obviously hurt.
She could have departed with grace, accepted a fate not uncommon in the often cruel world of politics, and been a force for good in the party like former leader Pat Mella. Instead Crane has adopted a scorched earth policy that will make her persona non grata in the party and any future PC government.
And she is taking Perry and Lavie down with her. Their misplaced loyalty is the single greatest impediment to the party stopping its hemorrhaging and beginning the tentative steps toward rebuilding.
The Three Amigos are shredding any credibility with the general public and in all probability destroying any chance of ever being named to a future cabinet position.
What leader could trust them?
There is no disputing Crane was unfairly treated by a vindictive cadre of party insiders. But their knives were only sharp because Crane failed the primary test of leadership: Convincing the electorate that the Tories were a government in waiting. The easiest way to silence the backroom is to consistently be at 40 per cent plus in the polls. Then knives morph into the sound of party members sucking up. Crane never did that. She never connected with the electorate. She was never perceived as a premier in waiting.
It is a gaping shortcoming that Crane refuses to acknowledge. Instead she blames her demise and all ills of the party on a few backroom operatives who refused to accept her leadership.
Olive Crane is wrong. One small example. In her disjointed farewell interview Crane specifically mentioned being a voice for agriculture yet under her leadership not only did no Tory MLA show up for the recent annual Federation of Agriculture meeting – five Liberal MLAs attended and Finance Minister Wes Sheridan stayed all day and evening - but her office did not even respond to the invitation.
Lip service doesn’t cut it with the electorate. The snub to the agriculture sector speaks to a lack of organizational leadership, which Islanders witnessed time and again during her tenure.
Most troubling is the double standard Crane, Perry and Lavie willingly accept to suit their own personal agenda.
Two months ago, in the run up to the contentious question of whether a review of Crane’s leadership should be conducted, opponents to her leadership concocted a juiced poll that supposedly showed a wide majority of party members opposing her.
The stunt galvanized Crane supporters and resulted in her narrowly winning a stay of execution. The poll was widely condemned by both those inside and outside the party.
In a clumsy attempt to cling to power and keep Crane loyalists in charge, Crane, Perry and Lavie pulled a page directly from the dirty play handbook of the backroom they so viscerally criticize.
Just 12 hours after Crane stepped down, the Three Amigos called a snap caucus vote to name a new Opposition Leader, and with it control of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer’s money to staff and operate the Opposition Office that includes an extra $50,000 in salary for the Opposition Leader and government supplied car.
Perry wasted no time using his new found access to the taxpayer till by rushing to hire George MacDonald, a Crane confidant who chaired the party’s failed campaign in the last election, to run the Opposition Office.
What other deals were struck behind closed doors by the Three Amigos to split the spoils of power? What promises were made in return for supporting Perry as Opposition Leader?
The timing of the vote was as an end run around the PC Party Executive and its vote the following day to name an Interim Party Leader.
Even though Crane loyalists make up a majority of the party executive they overwhelmingly saw the Opposition Leader vote for what it was – a crass backroom deal concocted to force the party’s hand and keep Crane loyalists in charge.
Stephen Myers crushed Hal Perry, with only three people voting for Perry: Olive Crane, Colin Lavie and Perry himself. Perry refused to sign a waiver stating if elected he would not seek the fulltime leadership. This is reminiscent of Crane who played coy with her leadership aspirations and benefitted from the profile of the interim position to win the job full time.
Hal Perry has no mandate as Opposition Leader. He is the leader of a rump of three disgruntled MLAs who refuse to accept that the Olive Crane era is over. Either Perry or Lavie need to realize they are not serving the party or Islanders by allowing the divisions to continue. Their actions are selfish.
Healing can only begin if one or both change their vote and support the naming of Stephen Myers as Opposition Leader. He was loyal to Crane, is the best performer in the legislature and is saying all the right things in an attempt to tamp down dissension.
If Crane, Perry or Lavie are unwilling to budge they should quit and find a new political house in which to practice their destructive, selfish brand of politics.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org