PEI·Analysis

PCs look to build momentum through 'very important' Summerside byelection

The Progressive Conservative Party on P.E.I. is holding its nomination meeting Monday night to select a candidate for the upcoming byelection in Summerside-Wilmot.

Four candidates compete for Tory nomination Monday night

Philip Brown, Norma McColeman, Brian Ramsay and Jason 'Lefty' Gallant are vying to represent the PC Party in Summerside-Wilmot. (Submitted photos)

Last week's poll from Corporate Research Associates was the company's 38th consecutive quarterly poll to show the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Party trailing the provincial Liberals.

Let that number sink in for a moment. To find the PCs polling ahead of the Liberals in a CRA poll, you have to go all the way back to February 2007, when Pat Binns was premier.

This district would be very important to us to win.— Pat Banks, PC Party president

Since then the PCs have been in constant rebuilding mode, like a sputtering NHL franchise with an arena full of fading Stanley Cup banners from the glory years.

The upcoming byelection in Summerside-Wilmot following the abrupt resignation of Janice Sherry in August may factor into the party's latest rebuilding plan. Local riding association president Gerard McCardle has suggested the next leader of the party — and thus, he suggested, the next P.E.I. premier — might seek the nomination for this district.

'Great boost'

The PCs came within 30 votes of winning Summerside-Wilmot — and defeating sitting cabinet minister Janice Sherry — in the 2015 provincial election. Even with last week's poll showing the momentum clearly behind the MacLauchlan Liberals provincially, that close call in 2015 is giving Tories hope they can win this byelection.

The four candidates have signed up "quite a number" of new members to vote in Monday night's nomination said party president Pat Banks, though he won't say exactly how many memberships have been sold.

"This district would be very important to us to win," said Banks.

"It'd be a great boost to the party, it'd be great for the people of Summerside to have a representative in the Opposition office going to take their interests into the House."

The last time the party won either of the two Summerside seats was in 2003, when they took both. 

Here's a quick look at the four candidates seeking the nomination for the PCs.

Brian Ramsay

Brian Ramsay lost the district in last year's election to incumbent Janice Sherry by just 30 votes. (Submitted photo)

Ramsay was the party's candidate in the 2015 provincial election, losing by just 30 votes to Janice Sherry, who had been a member of the Robert Ghiz cabinet (and up until the election, was in the cabinet of Wade MacLauchlan).

Ramsay is a businessman who works at a local car dealership. He's also been a volunteer with the Summerside Chamber of Commerce, the Summerside Y's Men's Club and the Harbourfront Theatre, among other groups.

Philip Brown

Philip Brown was an MLA and tourism minister under premier Pat Binns. (Submitted photo)

Brown was provincial tourism minister under former premier Pat Binns until going down to defeat, along with much of the Binns cabinet, in the 2007 provincial election. Since then, Brown served on the staff of his former cabinet colleague Gail Shea while she was a federal cabinet minister under Stephen Harper.

According to a party media release Brown is seeking to re-enter public life, "to make our community and province better."

Brown told CBC News if he wins the nomination, and the byelection, he intends to seek the party leadership. Brown said he doesn't want to lead from outside the legislature.

According to the party, Brown is the only candidate who lives outside the district of Summerside-Wilmot. He last represented the neighbouring riding of Tyne Valley-Linkletter.

Norma McColeman

Norma McColeman is a Summerside city councillor and the only woman seeking the PC nod in Summerside-Wilmot. (Submitted photo)

The PC party actively sought out women for this race, speaking to a number of potential candidates according to party president Pat Banks. McColeman is the only woman who came forward.

She's currently a member of Summerside City Council. McColeman has spent 17 years as an outreach co-ordinator with PEI Family Violence Prevention Services, working with victims of family violence. She's also served on the board of the National Council of Welfare. In 2013 she was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service.

Jason 'Lefty' Gallant

Jason 'Lefty' Gallant is dipping his toes into politics, seeking the PC nomination in Summerside-Wilmot. (Submitted photo)

Gallant works as a co-ordinator at the Summerside Boys and Girls Club, spending part of his time working with an intervention program targeting at-risk youth. He said that experience led him to try for the nomination.

"I deal with a lot of youth in the community and the struggles that they deal with every day… You know they struggle with alcohol and drugs and truancy. That really kind of touched home because this is a community that I grew up in and you know it's been really good to me."

The nomination convention is scheduled for Monday Sept. 12 at the Wilmot Community Centre. No date has yet been set for the byelection. Registration begins at 6:30 with a call to order at 7 p.m., according to the PCs website. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca

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