GEORGETOWN-ROYALTY - James Aylward’s second run at leadership the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative party was the charm.
Aylward was elected leader of the PC party Friday evening, handily winning the race with 1,685 votes, which was over 500 more votes than rival candidate Brad Trivers received.
But there was no sense of rivalry among the two during the leadership convention at the Rodd Brudenell River Resort Friday. Each candidate praised one another during their rally speeches before the result was announced, and afterward Aylward immediately called Trivers to share the stage with him.
Trivers called on his supporters to throw unanimous support behind Aylward, and the crowd in the room erupted in cheers and a standing ovation.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have this kind of support from the entire party,” Aylward said.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Aylward says he believes his experience as an MLA in office since 2011 and his previous run at leadership in 2015 were key in helping convince members to choose him as party leader this time around.
“I truly feel Islanders are looking for change,” he told reporters Friday evening.
“We’re going to collectively, with our caucus, roll out a plan to move forward and show Islanders that we are ready to govern.”
The race began six months ago and was characterized as lacklustre by political pundits.
But Aylward says he kept his nose to the grindstone, making 6,500 phone calls and clocking over 30,000 kilometres in travel across the Island in his bid to become the top Tory in P.E.I.
It’s a job he firmly believes will take him to the premier’s office and the PC party into government after the next provincial election.
“We’re going to formulate a really grassroots platform, we’re going to support small business, we’re going to reinforce communities from one end of the Island to the other,” he said.
“We’re going to do, essentially, the opposite of what this current government is doing.”
Aylward also placed heavy focus Friday on a desire for the party to win another seat in the legislature in an upcoming byelection that must be held within the next six months to replace former education minister Doug Currie in Charlottetown, who resigned from office on Thursday.
Capturing this seat from the Liberal government before the next election could help boost Islanders’ perceptions of the PC party’s ability to be successful in the next provincial election, Aylward said.
“I think it’s a bit of a litmus test of how the government is failing Islanders, and it’s also a true barometer of the faith that they are going to put in the next government of P.E.I. — and that’s a Progressive Conservative government.”
Trivers offered his congratulations to Aylward on his win and pledged to work alongside him, both in the legislature and under Aylward’s leadership, to help build the party’s fortunes.
“What an achievement. He’s been working at this for a long time with a lot of great supporters,” Trivers said.
The two have a breakfast meeting planned for Saturday morning before the party’s annual general meeting convenes, where Aylward says the real work of building the party’s policies and platform will begin.
“At our AGM, we will collectively, as members of this great party and Islanders in general, we will roll up our sleeves and will begin the process of working towards forming government in 2019. We can do it.”