Premier Kathy Dunderdale has made it official — she is seeking the leadership of the Tory Party in the province.
Dunderdale made the announcement before media this morning outside the House of Assembly at Confederation Building in St. John’s.
"I'm pleased to be here this morning to announce my candidacy for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador," Dunderdale said.
She noted she initially hadn't planned to run but the encouragement of caucus colleagues, and Newfoundlanders and Labadorians, made her reconsider.
"It's an exciting opportunity, something that I didn't expect but I enthusiastically embrace, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the next weeks and months will bring."
Dunderdale was sworn in Dec. 3 as the province's 10th — and first female — premier following the resignation of Danny Williams.
Dunderdale says her focus in the days following former premier Danny Williams' resignation was providing a seamless transition for government.
"I wasn't aware that Premier Williams was going to resign until the evening before," she said. "The announcement was made the next day. I made my position very clear the next day.
“As the weeks progressed, there was quite a bit of support expressed to me to continue my service to the people of the province in this new particular way that I certainly hadn't seriously considered before then. And upon reflection, once we had gotten through the House of Assembly, once major files had been dealt with, once I had the time to quietly reflect and again speak with my family and colleagues, then, while it's not a path I ever expected to be on, is one that I enthusiastically embrace and I look forward to."
A provincial election is scheduled for the fall.
The nomination period for the Tory leadership opens today and closes Jan. 10. No other candidate — within caucus or outside — has declared an intention to run. Dunderdale says she intends to stay on as premier throughout the nomination period and will step down if other candidates come forward, necessitating a leadership race.
The interim premier says she doesn't think her current position gives her an unfair advantage or will deter any other candidates from coming forward.
"People have been aware for some time now that this leadership has to take place. This government has to be led. I have done that in the interim. If another candidate comes forward, then when the nomination period is complete, I'll step aside and it'll be a level playing field."
Interim Liberal leader Kelvin Parsons, however, says the lack of candidates for the PC leadership shows the government has "weak bench strength."
"It was a bit of a surprise that it happened this way but I guess once the pretenders sized it up they realized they didn't have what it took, and now she's left in a position where albeit she didn't want the job, she's left to do the job."
Parsons said Dunderdale's announcement doesn't change Liberal strategy heading into the next election.
"I think this makes it even a little better for us, because it really shows they do have a lack of depth. I think it's quite clear from Premier Dunderdale's performance in the House, albeit a two-week session, she wasn't really comfortable sometimes when it came to dealing with some of the major files, like Muskrat, which she's been on for the last two years, even. So I think it's going to be a very interesting year."