CHARLOTTETOWN -- The chairman of the University of Prince Edward Island Political Science Department is suggesting bringing Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry into their camp was a good move, strategically, for the Robert Ghiz Liberals.
“This is good news for them; this is something they are going to try too exploit,” said Dr. Peter McKenna.
Premier Robert Ghiz called a news conference Thursday to announce the District 27 MLA was crossing the floor from the Progressive Conservatives to the Liberals.
“I don’t believe in too many coincidences in politics,” McKenna commented. “The fact this announcement was made, especially after the last poll. It was by design. The liberals are looking for a good news story here.”
While the Liberals are still in the lead in the latest public opinion poll, McKenna noted they have dropped in support and that the Tories have dropped to third place behind the Island New Democrats.
“They know that the PC party is falling at the moment; they know the NDP are nipping at their heals,” he said.
What the Liberals want to be careful about, though, McKenna said, is that they don’t knock the life right out of the Tories.
“They are going to need the PC party in the next election, if it is as tight as the polls are indicating.
If the NDP and the PCs split the vote, then the Liberals have a better chance of holding onto government,” McKenna reasoned.
“Right now the Liberals have to be saying, ‘yeah, this is good news for us, but remember, we still need a PC party that has a pulse, that’s competitive, or at least reasonably so, just not in position to form a government.’”
McKenna said he’s not buying Perry’s argument that he is changing sides so that he can freely work on behalf of his constituents in resisting the Federal Tories EI changes. “I don’t think it is a legitimate issue. I certainly don’t think it’s enough to base someone’s resignation from a party on.” Besides, he said, the Federal Tories already know the impact of the EI changes. “The reality is they don’t care.”
He suggests shifting sides probably has more to do with wounds Perry sustained in a bid for the Tory party’s interim leadership, party infighting and the Tories’ dismal showing in opinion polls.
Although welcoming Perry might have worked well for the Liberals, McKenna believes, “in an ideal political world,” Perry would have resigned his seat and then ran for the Liberals in a byelection instead of simply crossing the floor. It would be a risky move, he acknowledged, but said it could have worked if he was able to provide some fundamental reasons for wanting to shift sides – the direction of the party, its policy, the leader.
“If you stepped aside and you made a case like that, and on the other hand saying, ‘I think I’m in a much stronger position to bring some new money, new resources, a new focus on District 27 under the government banner,’ I think that’s something voters would have to consider,” he said.
Right now, the voters have no choice; they’ve played no role, directly, in his ability to cross the floor. They haven’t sanctioned it, but there it is. If you faced the people, then you could say, ‘it’s their verdict that matters.’ Give them a chance to decide on whether or not they like this idea. Right now, he’s simply taking it upon himself to say, ‘It seems to work for me.’”