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P.E.I. PCs to choose new leader today – CBC.ca

(From left) Allan Dale, Sarah Stewart-Clark, Kevin Arsenault, Dennis King and Shawn Driscoll are all in the race to become the next leader of the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Party. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

The Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. will announce a new leader today.

Five candidates are in the running to replace current leader James Aylward, who announced in September he would be stepping down.

Online voting began Feb. 1. For the first time for an Island political party, all of the ballots are being cast online.

The five candidates running are:

  • Kevin Arsenault, the former head of the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada.

  • Allan Dale, a navy veteran who’s currently a director with UPEI’s School of Sustainable Design Engineering.

  • Shawn Driscoll, who worked for Conservative MP Gail Shea when she was a cabinet minister under Stephen Harper.

  • Dennis King, who served as director of communications for the last PC premier of P.E.I. Pat Binns.

  • Sarah Stewart-Clark, an associate professor in the School of Agriculture at Dalhousie University.

Aylward was chosen to lead the party at its last leadership convention in Oct. 2017, but announced less than a year later he would step down, saying he had “not been able to make a strong enough connection with Islanders.” However Aylward is staying on as an MLA and said he intends to run in the next election.

More than 3,000 votes already cast

Party members are gathering today at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. Voting ends at 3:15 p.m. with the announcement of the winner expected shortly thereafter.

At 3:15 p.m. Friday the party said 3,155 party members had already cast a ballot for leader — more than in any previous P.E.I. PC leadership convention.

Voting is being done using a preferential ballot. That means party members can rank anywhere from one to all five candidates on their ballot in order of preference.

It also means only one round of voting will be required.

Election looming

None of the five candidates currently has a seat in the provincial legislature — but the winner may not have to wait long for a chance to win a seat.

A provincial election is expected as early as this spring.

“They don’t have much time, the new leader in the party, to get out there and meet Islanders and make a positive impression … to get themselves known and connect with the voting public,” said UPEI political science professor Peter McKenna.

“That’s going to be a challenge for them.”

The provincial cabinet set the wheels in motion for an early election by designating Feb. 1 as the start of P.E.I.’s referendum period, giving government eight months from that date to hold an election.

Islanders will vote in a referendum on changing their electoral system along with the next election.

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