Kevin Arsenault enters race for leadership of P.E.I.'s PC party

Kevin Arsenault cites his work in agriculture, rural affairs, immigration and ethics among his strongest qualities.

Says Islanders need to 'confront and solve' social, economic and environmental issues

Kevin J. Arsenault has launched his bid for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

It's now a five-way race for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I.

Kevin Arsenault kicked off his leadership bid Wednesday night.

"People say ethics and politics don't mix. I say it's time they started," Arsenault told the crowd of about 70 people at Charlottetown's Murchison Centre. "Government should belong to the people. I'm going to do a whole lot to make that happen."

Arsenault, 60, has served in leadership roles in agriculture and immigration as executive director of both the National Farmers Union and the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada.  He holds a PhD from McGill University and has taught ethics and religious studies at UPEI.

"People know me because of my writing and research and, I guess, my tenacity," said Arsenault.

During his 40-minute speech, Arsenault attacked the Liberal government's record, especially in immigration and agricultural policy, calling the government's actions "corrupt."

"I overestimated the degree of ethics that were in government," Arsenault told the crowd at one point, to loud applause.

"Lock 'em up!" shouted a man in the crowd.  The remark drew scattered laughter.

If chosen leader and then elected premier, Arsenault will "put an end to the persistent corruption and self-serving scandals that have made P.E.I. a national embarrassment under the Liberals during the past decade," according to a written statement provided before Wednesday's meeting.

Arsenault's speech focused on ethics in government. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Since leaving the Newcomers Association in 2010, Arsenault has worked as an organic market gardener, consultant and as a self-described independent investigative reporter. During his speech, he read from his own writings and referred listeners to his website for more. 

Arsenault told the crowd he feels good about running for leadership of the PCs, win or lose.

"They say a clear conscience is the best pillow," said Arsenault. "I'll sleep well knowing I tried."

Four other candidates — Allan Dale, Shawn Driscoll, Dennis King and Sarah Stewart-Clark — previously announced their leadership bids.

Current PC leader James Aylward will remain in his role until a new leader is chosen at the leadership convention Feb. 9 at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown.

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