P.E.I. Tories gather to discuss timing of leadership convention

Staff ~ Transcontinental Media
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WINSLOE, P.E.I. The P.E.I. Conservative party should elect a permanent leader sooner rather than later, its membership said during the partys annual meeting Saturday.

The party has been without a permanent leader since the last election in 2007, when Pat Binns was defeated as premier.

The partys executive then named Olive Crane as interim leader until a new leader could be found.

Mike OBrien, who chaired Binnss campaign in 1996, would like to see the convention held earlier, rather than later, and suggested the spring of 2010.

But OBrien said a leadership campaign needs to be more than just a one-day event. He said its essential that districts are organized, that the leadership contenders hold a series of town halls across the Island, and that the party comes together and supports the new leader.

The last poll showed a 20 per cent differential. You have to be realistic about these things, OBrien said.

You have to go about trying to close that gap. Youre not going to close that until you get a leader, and until there are some candidates representing certain ridings. Thats the purpose of getting out sometime in 2010.

David McKenna, a former Conservative in the legislature, cautioned members not to go too early.

He said if that happens the party will spend all its money on the new leader rather than fighting the next election, or the leader will be without a salary for a year-and-a-half, which may prevent some candidates from running.

The party has a total debt of $260,000 but it is confident it can be free of debt by the fall of 2010.

We usually get a bump in the polls after a leadership convention, said McKenna. We want to keep that momentum going into the next election.

The party appears set on holding its leadership convention in 2010, more than likely in the spring.

But the final decision will lie with a leadership committee, which is being struck immediately.

Geographic location: Iceland

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