The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE -

Time is quickly run­ning out for any­one else to en­ter the lead­er­ship race for the PC Party of P.E.I.

Time is quickly run­ning out for can­di­dates plan­ning to en­ter the lead­er­ship race for the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party of Prince Ed­ward Is­land. The path to vic­tory lies through this Oc­to­ber’s bal­lot process. Strangely, that path is eerily quiet.

Most in­di­ca­tors sug­gest the new leader would have a solid shot at be­com­ing pre­mier in 2019’s pro­vin­cial elec­tion. The cur­rent Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is mid­way through its third term, the usual max­i­mum awarded by Is­lan­ders to any gov­ern­ment, no mat­ter how pop­u­lar or suc­cess­ful.

The thirst for change, and the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of in­evitable bag­gage, usu­ally over­comes any gov­ern­ment after three terms. For Is­lan­ders to re­ward a party with four straight man­dates is al­most un­heard of, al­though this is only the first term for Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan. Robert Ghiz led the party to land­slide wins in 2007 and 2011 while Mr. MacLauch­lan was the newly-crowned leader in 2015’s May elec­tion when he saved the Lib­er­als with a re­duced but still solid ma­jor­ity.

The gov­ern­ment’s once huge lead in the pub­lic opinion polls has plum­meted, al­though that ero­sion seems to have lev­eled off. Pre­mier MacLauch­lan not only trails his own party in poll num­bers but also Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker in terms of per­sonal pop­u­lar­ity.

The gov­ern­ment has been ham­mered with egam­ing and PNP con­tro­ver­sies and did it­self no favours by fum­bling ed­u­ca­tion and health files.

The time ap­pears ripe for the gov­ern­ment to fall. So, the ques­tion re­mains: Why aren’t there more can­di­dates in the PC race? Many po­lit­i­cal pun­dits ex­pected the Tories to draw five, six, seven or more can­di­dates. We have two, and no rum­blings for any oth­ers to join the fray.

As ex­pected, the pro­vin­cial race was quiet un­til after the fed­eral lead­er­ship con­ven­tion but that was over two months ago. Sit­ting MLAs Brad Trivers and James Ayl­ward are cer­tainly strong and at­trac­tive can­di­dates. They might have scared off some hope­fuls who were ey­ing a run.

Even the de­ci­sion by Sid­ney MacEwen - long con­sid­ered as an early favourite - not to en­ter the race, failed to stir up in­ter­est.

Mr. Ayl­ward and Mr. Trivers have been busy work­ing the summer straw­berry so­cials, com­mu­nity fairs and en­ter­tain­ment venues, sign­ing up new mem­bers and seek­ing sup­port and en­dorse­ments.

They have a cru­cial head start on any late­com­ers who would now face an up­hill climb.

A po­ten­tial can­di­date would also look at the two-year wait un­til the next elec­tion. The pay for an un­elected party leader isn’t an at­trac­tion – it would likely mean a cut in pay. The party is at fault for not of­fer­ing the new leader a more at­trac­tive com­pen­sa­tion pack­age.

It’s been a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult for the PC search com­mit­tee who tried its best to get more can­di­dates to run. There are no women, no mi­nori­ties and no fresh faces to bring added in­ter­est and a re­newed en­ergy to the race.

When Con­ser­va­tive sup­port­ers gather in Bru­denell on Oc­to­ber 20, a lin­ger­ing ques­tion re­mains – will there be two can­di­dates or is there a sur­prise wait­ing qui­etly in the wings?

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