Gunning for Liberal nomination in Bellevue
Outspoken writer, media commentator and community activist Pam Pardy Ghent is entering politics, and intends to run for the Liberals, in her home district of Bellevue.
“Running for politics has been part of the dialogue that I’ve been having with friends and family since I moved home (to Harbour Mille, in 2003),” Ghent said, in an interview. “This isn’t new to those who know me… I think those who really know me and have talked with me are not surprised. But it’s certainly not anything that I’ve talked about publicly before, because it wasn’t the right time, I wasn’t sure if I was the right fit, family dynamics, children in school, husband working away, just all those things really didn’t seem to fit with being a politician.”
Ghent got her start in feature writing at The Independent. When that folded, she freelanced for The Newfoundland Herald, and more recently, her commentaries have appeared on CBC Here & Now.
But she is perhaps most infamous for getting fired from her volunteer position with the Rural Secretariat, for making an off-colour joke on Facebook about then-premier Danny Williams’s dangly bits. That one made headlines across the country.
I asked Ghent if she thought that episode might hurt her credibility in the district. She said she didn’t think so, but ran the same question past Yvonne Jones, to see how the Liberal Leader felt.
“I had that conversation with Yvonne,” she said. “Do you even want me? Am I too ‘out there’? Do you think I’m going to turn people off? Even though I feel I have support in this district, you don’t know. But she had absolutely no qualms about it. So it’s face to the gale.”
Ghent has been critical, in this blog and elsewhere, about the record of the current government, from the way it handled the Kiewit-Marystown file to its bungled response to Hurricane Igor. I asked, in light of her announcement, if political opportunism was behind any of those complaints – a way of firing a shot before the battle begins. She flatly denied it.
“Oh no,” she said. “Definitely not. And that (accusation) is going to come up, I know. I think anybody who puts their name forward to run, will be accused of all sorts of things.”
Ghent said she has always been interested in politics, and has supported both PCs and Liberals.
“I always said I was someone who voted first for the person before the party, both federally and provincially. My family had always been PC supporters… when we were being raised. Prior to that my father was a Liberal, and I remember always hearing conversations going back and forth, about the Liberals and PCs, as if they were the only two parties. When I came back to Newfoundland I got involved with the Rural Secretariat, and a lot of the people I interacted with were by nature PCs and I got to know people within the party. I was an admirer of Danny Williams in the beginning. I don’t think I was a PC supporter but I certainly supported him.”
That started to change gradually, she said, as she observed the premier’s behaviour over a period of time.
“I think there was something about Danny Williams’s style that rubbed me the wrong way. There were a few instances, like the Sam Synard thing [when Premier Williams slapped Synard down for questioning government’s handling of the JSS contract in Marystown], and it became clear that his style was more abrasive than anything else, and I started to question a few things…”
The clincher, of course, was her abrupt firing from the Rural Secretariat. That effectively cut short her involvement in the PC Party.
“Yes, things did change for me in October – you know the incident of which I speak. It really brought it home to me, and they (the PC Party) made it quite clear they didn’t want my kind. So I guess I had to put my loyalties elsewhere, while taking another hard look at politics in this province… When I took a look at everything I just felt Yvonne Jones was where I wanted to put my loyalties, and this region would be better served by me running with her."
Ghent has been thinking about politics for a long time. During that time, she worked as a writer and media commentator. Is it possible that her writing was tainted, even subtly, by political bias?
“I’ve been really objective. I’ve been very vocal and people have known where I stood, such as when the PCs were supporting the Harper Conservatives, I supported Judy Foote… I did what I could to support her, because I support the person. But I still wrote articles at the same time about the fishery, and I spoke to different candidates, everyone from Fabian Manning to Ryan Cleary to Judy Foote, and I spoke to representatives from all the parties. And no one received better coverage than the other. And I did a recent profile of Charlene Johnson, and I didn’t make any political digs at all.”
It should be noted that Ghent hasn’t won the Liberal nomination yet. The nomination meeting hasn’t been called, and other contestants may well come forward.