By: Tony Davis
James Aylward choked back his emotions Monday as he announced he is stepping down
from Prince Edward Island PC leader.
However Aylward will continue to be the party leader until a replacement is made,
though leadership is a difficult task, he said at a news conference.
“There are countless evening and weekends and long hours on the road that come with
being a leader of a political party. I would have not been able to take on this leadership
role without the love, support and encouragement of my family.”
When Aylward was elected as party leader last year, he had a vision for P.E.I that would
grow the economy and help families, he said. But it became clear to him over the past
couple of months he wasn’t able to connect with Islanders. “With an election coming
next year, I want to provide the great PC Party with the best opportunity to win.”
Aylward believes the party will find someone qualified to replace him. There are
a lot of candidates coming forward to run in the next provincial election and Aylward
said he is encouraged by the momentum the PC Party currently has.
“The Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island is alive and well on P.E.I.”
The PC party leadership has been inconsistent over the last five years. Olive Crane
stepped down as Tory leader Jan 30, 2013 with Steven Myers becoming intern leader
Feb. 4. Rob Lantz won the PC leadership in February of 2015, but by October Jamie Fox
would become interim leader. Aylward was elected PC leader October 2017.
Aylward returned to the room to answer questions following the announcement he would
step down. “It was challenging to be a leader of a political party,” he said.
“It is a huge job, being the leader of a political party here on P.E.I. and being everyone
and all to everyone, it is a huge challenge.”
Aylward’s announcement comes after the most recent P.E.I. political poll released on
Sept. 6. The CRA poll called 300 Islanders from Aug 2-21 and showed that the Green Party was in the lead with 38 per cent support, ahead of the Liberals who were at 35 per cent.
However, the Tories, used to being one of the top two political parties throughout the
Island’s history, sat at 20 per cent.
“At the end of the day it comes down to numbers. Some say polls are a snapshot in time
but polls are polls. I said right from the onset it’s not about one person, one ego, it’s for
the whole team and I strongly believe we have a team of party members and caucus
members who want to improve lives for Islanders,” Aylward said.