Both candidates running to be P.E.I.'s next Progressive Conservative leader say their head-to-head battle is good news for the party.

James Aylward and Brad Trivers — both current PC MLAs — were confirmed as the race's only two candidates when nominations closed last Friday.

'A tough ask'

They both say they're not surprised by the fact that no one from outside the legislature stepped up to run. 

"I think it was a really tough ask for someone to try and become a PC leader, then sit outside the rail for up to another couple of years before the next election," Trivers said.

Brad Trivers

PC leadership candidate Brad Trivers says the party will benefit greatly from the leadership race. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"We've unfortunately gone through the experience once in recent history, where we elected a leader from outside the rail," Aylward added. 

Aylward's referring to the PC leadership race in 2015, when Rob Lantz, who was not an MLA, won the party's leadership race, then failed to win a seat in the provincial election. Lantz went on to resign as leader a few months later. 

A leader with experience

Trivers said he's confident that whoever wins this time won't suffer the same fate. 

"It will really be about the two candidates, what we stand for, and who people want to lead the PC party."
— PC leadership candidate Brad Trivers

"I think the party is going to do quite well by this," he said. "They're going to have a new leader who is definitely going to win their seat in the next election. They're going to have a new leader that has experience."

Trivers added that with just two candidates running for the leadership, party members should have an easier time learning and understanding their platforms, and ultimately deciding how to vote. 

"It's not going to be a procedural thing where someone sneaks up the middle because they were able to get third choice votes down on the preferential ballot or anything like that," Trivers said.

"It will really be about the two candidates, what we stand for, and who people want to lead the PC party."

'Good friends'

Although at this stage in the campaign, both Trivers and Aylward acknowledged there isn't much separating them as candidates. 

Aylward pointed out he is "good friends" with Trivers, and that Trivers actually helped him with his first run at the leadership two years ago. 

James Aylward

James Aylward says he and Trivers are good friends and that they share many similar qualities. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"The biggest difference between Brad and I? I don't really think there is any," Aylward said. "We're both focused on improving things in Prince Edward Island, and turning things around."

Aylward said he is "fortunate to have a little more experience" under his belt.  

'Not afraid to make change'

On top of this being his second run at the PC leadership, the Stratford-Kinlock MLA has held his seat for six years, while Trivers has been Rustico-Emerald's MLA for the past two years. 

"Without a doubt that's an advantage for [Aylward]," Trivers admitted.  "So I'm watching closely what he's doing. But I think PC's across the province and Islanders in general are ready to have a fresh young leader who's going to go in there and make change for the better, and not be afraid to make change."

Neither candidate said they have any plans to criticize the other during the leadership campaign. 

Both said they'll focus their efforts in the next two months on talking to as many Islanders as possible, and winning over existing and new PC members. 

Polls will open for the first time on Oct. 7 in five locations across the province. 

The leadership convention is scheduled for Oct. 20.