With both main line political parties on the Island set to choose a new leader within the next few months, and presuming at least one of them will be our next premier, it’s time we ask an few overriding questions.
What qualities and abilities should Islanders look for in their next premier?
Who is the man or woman most likely to make a difference?
Forget the Blue Team and the Red Team for a moment. Forget about Grits and Tories and all the partisanship I believe can obscure free thinking and responsible citizenship.
Each party will go about its leadership business of course, however, our shared challenge as Islanders is to find an individual who possesses the vision, character and inner strength and the abilities to lead from the front.
It would be convenient I suppose to assemble our quintessential premier from the best attributes of previous Island premiers, or genetically engineer the individual like an AquaBounty salmon, but none of that is possible.
Therefore we must select from the known gene pool.
Now I am going to state what some will think is a contradiction.
In my opinion, we need a premier who is only secondarily a politician, for a premier who views himself as a political operator first will be more interested in consensus and compromise than in making tough, right decisions.
More troublesome perhaps, the thoroughbred politician who occupies the premier’s chair will often serve the party ahead of the province, and a small group of friends ahead of the wider population. In a government led by such a premier, partisanship and favouritism often will rule the day.
Our outgoing premier is a decent and intelligent man who has served the Island with conviction and dignity.
Robert Ghiz could have been a great premier and not just a successful one. His keen sense of social responsibility and desire to help children and families in particular, together with his formidable communications skills, should have rocketed him higher and produced a greater legacy.
Sadly, the PNP debacle revealed another kind of premier.
It is always dangerous for a premier to manage any file within his own office, especially one that is potentially controversial and involves the disbursement of money. Premier Ghiz could not resist a direct role in administering and disbursing PNP units, and as a consequence he became ensnared in the irregularities and outrageous behaviour that surrounded that program.
It is cruel perhaps to say this, but his father, the late Premier Joe Ghiz would not have made that mistake.
I believe Robert Ghiz was also a product of his own upbringing.
Brighton born and raised, I don’t believe he ever felt completely at home outside of Charlottetown, and he enjoyed the halting respect but never the admiration of rural Prince Edward Island.
Our next premier should wear the Island like an old suit of clothes.
Our next premier needs to be comfortable in their own skin, and feel at home in urban and rural communities, around the board table, in the barn, and on the wharf.
It’s a tall order I realize.
Above all, the next premier of Prince Edward Island must be willing to stand tall for the province, and possess the intelligence and gravities to be taken seriously at the national level.
Prince Edward Island always needs to be capable of swinging above its weight.
That takes outstanding political leadership at the top.
We don’t need an emperor premier, or someone who relishes micro management and certainly broad direction and forward planning should be built around meaningful public engagement. But we desperately need a mature individualist who loves their province and is confident about its future.
Islanders need and deserve someone who can restore our hope.
Accepting that a genetically engineered premier is off the table, we must rely on our political parties to find the man or woman with the right stuff.
Perhaps that individual will shroud themselves in party red, or blue, or green, or whatever.
It’s not about party affiliation or the 50 shades of political ideology.
To embrace the spirit of the coming season, it’s about gifting ourselves with a premier we need more than want, a leader of quality and substance underneath the pretty wrapping.