P.E.I. Opposition Leader James Aylward resigns

James Aylward announced Monday at a news conference he is resigning as P.E.I. PC Party leader.

Party president says leadership convention will need to happen quickly

James Aylward resigns Monday at a news conference in Charlottetown. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

James Aylward announced Monday he is resigning as P.E.I. PC Party leader.

"It has become clear to me over the past couple of months that despite my best efforts, I have not been able to make a strong enough connection with Islanders," Aylward said at a news conference.

The latest P.E.I. political poll September 6 saw a significant drop in support for the Tories, with just 20 per cent support.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to numbers," Aylward told reporters at the news conference. "Some people say that polls are just a snapshot in time, but you know what — polls are polls."

"With an election coming next year, I want to provide the great PC Party with the best opportunity to win," Aylward said.

He told the PC caucus of his intention on Sunday, he said and after some discussion about the optics, decided to go ahead with the resignation. He will remain party leader until a successor has been named.

"I felt, and I had the buy-in from caucus, that perhaps it is the best option at this time," he said. 

He was on the road meeting with Islanders for 51 out of 62 days in July and August, he said, and "enjoyed every day of it. I truly did — it's what I enjoy, I truly have a passion for Islanders and the concerns they have."

Aylward was elected leader on Oct. 20, 2017, defeating lone competitor Brad Trivers.

Aylward was first elected MLA for District 6, Stratford - Kinlock, in 2011 and re-elected in the 2015 provincial election. He said he plans to continue serving as an MLA and also plans to run in the next provincial election.

He said he's confident the party will find a qualified successor, because of the high calibre of candidates coming forward to run in the next provincial election. 

"The Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island is alive and well on P.E.I.," Aylward said. "I'm extremely encouraged about the momentum that we have right now and the excitement within the party."

'Need to unfold very quickly'

When asked if there is someone eagerly waiting in the wings for the leadership job, Aylward said, "Not that I'm aware of at this time."

Aylward met with PC Party president Charles Blue just before his news conference.

"I have enjoyed working closely with James and thank him for his dedication to our province and our party," said Blue in an emailed statement. 

"In my capacity as president I will be calling a meeting with our party executive to immediately develop a plan and a date for party leadership convention. Given the current political climate and proximity to the call of a provincial election, I expect that process will need to unfold very quickly."

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