PEI

'It was now or never' for new Tory leader, says political scientist

With P.E.I. opposition parties guessing that a provincial election is coming in the spring, the Progressive Conservatives needed to move quickly on its leader question, says UPEI political scientist Don Desserud.

'No one gives leaders any time'

As leader, Aylward was taking too long to connect with voters, says Don Desserud. (Province of P.E.I.)

With P.E.I. opposition parties guessing that a provincial election is coming in the spring, the Progressive Conservative Party needed to move quickly on its leader question, says UPEI political scientist Don Desserud.

Leader James Aylward resigned Monday, saying he would stay on until a new leader is named.

The resignation follows poor results in a recent political poll, which placed the Tories firmly in third place, and put Aylward well behind Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan and Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker as first choice for premier.

Desserud said he was only a little surprised by the announcement.

"When you look at those polling numbers over the last little while the Conservatives have flatlined," he said.

"They're simply not getting any traction."

6 leaders while in opposition

The party found itself in a position where it had to make a quick decision, said Desserud.

"If … we've come to the conclusion that we need a new leader, how are we going to get that new leader? When do we start the process?" he said.

"I think they worked it out it was now or never."

The party is likely hoping for momentum out of a leadership convention, says Don Desserud. (CBC)

The party has struggled with consistent leadership since the Liberals returned to power in 2007. There have been six different leaders, including three interim leaders. Aylward has held the post for just 11 months.

Desserud said he believes Aylward had the potential to be a good leader, but he ran out of time.

"With politics these days no one gives leaders any time," he said.

"It's very, very quick. People are very demanding and it's all or nothing. That's a problem with our system and that's why we have this turnover so rapidly."

Banking on convention

The party now faces a difficult road to a potential spring election, he said.

They will go through the fall session with an interim leader, and a new leader will have little time after that to make an impression. He believes the Tories are banking on momentum coming out of a leadership convention.

James Aylward won the leadership at a convention in October of last year. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

"I wonder if they don't have somebody already in mind, someone waiting in the wings, because they seem to be quite confident they can move this through fairly quickly," he said.

"If they can get a leader up and running fast they can make some inroads here. But there's a lot that has to be done and you need to have somebody that the public sees in action."

In a statement Monday, the party said the executive will meet soon to set a date for a leadership convention.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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