Former P.E.I. Premier Pat Binns says he believes Erin O'Toole is a "good choice" for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
O'Toole was one of four candidates in the race to be leader. He won the third ballot as they were counted Sunday evening.
"I think he'll serve the country well," said Binns. "He spent time here. He was Minister of Veterans Affairs for a short time, so he knows P.E.I.
"He's been around the party at the grassroots level."
Binns was Premier from 1996 to 2007 leading the Progressive Conservatives on the Island, and was the PC MP for Cardigan from 1984 to 1988.
'Wasn't my first choice'
Binns said he believes Islanders like and are familiar with O'Toole.
"It wasn't my first choice but I think he'll be a strong leader," Binns said. "I've been a supporter of Peter McKay's in the past and was supporting him this time."
Both Binns and former Egmont MP Gail Shea were early endorsers of MacKay, a fellow Maritimer, back in May — before any of the June debates.
Binns said his confidence stems from MacKay's former leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party — the party to which Binns belonged as MP — and MacKay's involvement in merging the Reform Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservatives in the early 00s.
MacKay later served in Stephen Harper's government.
"He has experience at the cabinet-level which is just excellent in terms of his time as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense and so on," he said.
"He's still young. I just thought that he's got the skill set, having been even out into the private sector for a number of years now."
'His energy is important'
Dr. Tim Ogilvie was the Conservative candidate in Malpeque for the 2011 federal election. He said he would not call MacKay's defeat a surprise.
"I was encouraged by what he brought to the campaign and his qualities, and I expect that he'll get on his feet and continue to do great things," he said.
Ogilvie said O'Toole brings a wealth of experience to the position, and has a vision of inclusiveness within the party.
"In terms of east, west, centre he seems to be cognizant and aware of all the values and attributes of the various regions of the country and with his energy and enthusiasm and optimistic message ... will take us forward," he said.
"His energy is important and his decision that he wants to get to work immediately is a good message for Islanders to hear and with his experience, he knows his way around Parliament."
Ogilvie said he thinks the next four weeks are going to be important for the party and its new leader to be prepared for a potential election, while listening and thinking through the next steps.
He said he currently does not have aspirations of running again, but "old politicians never say never."
Binns said he believes the federal party will continue to grow and has a good shot at winning the next election.
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