Brad Cabana vows to break ‘feudal’ politics in N.L.

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Brad Cabana

The outsider who derailed what was shaping up as a smooth coronation to replace former premier Danny Williams says “feudal” politics of intimidation in Newfoundland and Labrador must end.

Businessman Brad Cabana, 46, is appealing the Progressive Conservative party’s rejection of his bid to challenge Kathy Dunderdale for its leadership. Dunderdale became premier last month after Williams suddenly quit politics to resume his business career.

Cabana, a former small-town Saskatchewan mayor who has lived in Newfoundland for a year, is the sole challenger to Dunderdale’s ascension. And he said he won’t bend to strong-arm tactics.

“I find a lot of people here are scared to talk about politics,” he said from his home in Hickman’s Harbour.

“They’re frightened,” said the political blogger who was drawn to the province through ancestral ties and the way Williams fought for a fair share of offshore oil and hydroelectric profits.

“It’s like a feudal kind of political culture. And that’s one of my goals to break. It’s an outrage that people are afraid of politics here.”

Cabana’s appeal of his leadership snub is the latest twist in a bizarre political saga. His last-minute entry into the race has been the talk of provincial politics. It has also exposed divisions between Tories who say he’s a nuisance candidate and those who say stonewalling him sends a risky closed-party message.

A provincial election is slated for October.

Cabana is a former military captain who has accused a cabinet minister’s aide of coming to his house earlier this month and threatening him with character assassination if he pursued his long-shot campaign.

Environment Minister Ross Wiseman has confirmed his assistant, Chick Cholock, tried to dissuade Cabana from running. But he denied any threats were made or endorsed by party brass.

Cabana said he hopes “sober second thought” will prevail and that the party’s three-member rules committee will uphold his appeal and let him run after it hears his case today.

Otherwise, he said he’ll ask a court to consider whether the Tories unfairly interpreted vague membership rules to shut him out.

“They’re in for a fight if they want to fight.”

At issue is the credibility of the nomination signatures Cabana gathered as bona fide Progressive Conservative members. A three-person credentials committee disqualified him, saying he didn’t have the minimum support required of 50 recognized party members.

The provincial Tory constitution says all provincial residents “who support the principles and aims of the party are eligible to become members of the party.”

It further defines party members as individuals belonging to a district association, the provincial executive council or other affiliated group.

Cabana argues the mere support of party principles and aims should be enough to meet any membership test.

Former premier Tom Rideout is among Tories who agree that such an open interpretation applies to membership. He has publicly said Cabana should be allowed to run.

But Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner, who is also co-chair of the party’s convention committee, said leadership nominations aren’t open to people of all political stripes.

“It’s like a feudal kind of political culture. And that’s one of my goals to break. It’s an outrage that people are afraid of politics here.” Brad Cabana

“In terms of voting for the party leader, we further define the qualification to ... allow people who are members of the party to vote for that person,” he said in an interview. “We feel there is a distinction there in that the leader of our party represents like-minded people.”

In other words, Cabana needed 50 signatures of people linked to a Tory district association or other wing.

“Mr. Cabana is welcome in our process,” Skinner said. “He just has to meet the same rules and regulations as everybody else.”

The party’s membership definition may be tweaked, he said. “There’s obviously some confusion with some people.”

The rules committee has three days to release its decision after today’s hearing.

Christopher Dunn, a political scientist at Memorial University in St. John’s, says the Tory constitution appears to be vague enough that blocking Cabana may not be the best move.

“This is kind of a first test for the premier almost by ricochet,” he said. “The fact that a challenger is being silenced is going to be something that doesn’t make the party look good. And it starts off her time in office with kind of an ink blot on the page.”

Cabana blames a small circle of senior Tories for thwarting his leadership bid. But he stressed that he does not believe Dunderdale is among that group.

Dunderdale has said she would welcome competition and will not tolerate threats or intimidation.

Cabana, a married father of two, was born a middle child among seven siblings in Winnipeg. His father worked as a hydro engineer, moving his family from Hudson Bay to Victoria before settling in Saskatoon where Cabana spent most of his childhood.

He graduated with a political science degree from the University of Saskatchewan and wound up living in tiny Elstow, Sask., where the population fluctuates around 90.

He said he decided to run for office over problems with the town’s water quality.

“I was worried about the children that were there. They were bathing in that water. It smelled like sewage.

“I said, ’Let’s fix this. I’ll run for mayor.’ ”

In the early 1990s, he also joined a national political campaign against the proposed Goods and Services Tax, rubbing shoulders with provincial and federal politicians.

Cabana was briefly a card-carrying Saskatchewan Liberal in his 20s, but since then has been active in Conservative politics provincially and federally, he said.

He and his wife Katie were building up their local painting and interior design business when Williams quit.

“No one was coming forward,” Cabana said of the lack of even one challenger to Dunderdale. “I just felt the province needed a very strong, fire-in-the-belly, but intelligent, reasoned leadership.”

Organizations: Tory, Tory district association, University of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Hickman Winnipeg Hudson Bay Victoria Saskatoon Elstow

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Recent comments

  • mary
    January 24, 2011 - 17:53

    Politically Incorrect - Cabana is the one who referred to our culture, my comment comes from that. It certainly seems to me, from various comments made by Mr. Cabana, that he is somewhat arrogant and has a CFA attitude that NLers have had more than enough exposure to. As I said, sometimes that seems to be all people talk about - politics. Maybe people have heard/spoken with Cabana and found him difficult to talk with and, thus, don't want to talk politics with him again. Who knows?? As others have noted - he has only lived here 1 year - so, really, what does he know about NL? And, as others have suggested/asked - why didn't he start with going for a MHA position or something like that. Noone in the PC Party seems to know who he is, he simply came out of the woodwork (or the Reform Alliance Party of which he was very involved) Personally I don't want another Danny Williams leading NL and I most certainly don't want a Danny Williams wannabe. Cabana isn't even a wannabe, he touts himself as a Danny Williams clone.

  • Politically Incorrect
    January 24, 2011 - 14:08

    Perhaps, Mary, “our culture" does need to be fixed if the degree of bigotry and xenophobia amply demonstrated here is any indication of what you regard as “our culture.” Friendly Newfoundlanders my ar$e!

  • mary
    January 24, 2011 - 13:05

    Another CFA who has decided what our culture is and how it needs to be fixed. Talking about politics - cripes, sometimes that is all you hear people talking about. Maybe, Cabana, people just aren't interested in talking politics with you or maybe, Cabana, people you are trying to talk with are busy with other things and you don't pick up on the cues/clues. This guy does not come across as "very strong, fire-in-the-belly, but intelligent, reasoned leadership" even though he seems to think that is what he is.

  • redrantingtory
    January 24, 2011 - 12:01

    This guy is turning out to be another Curtis Coombs. It's time to give up. To run for a party leadership you should have at least some party support and as far as I'm concerned This guy doesn't have any. He as burned his bridges by alienating all and everyone with the way he went about this by trying to slip in the back door with no experience or party support. Sounds like sour grapes to me. Every party must have a way to control who is going to run for their party. You must show in someway you are a party member. If not what would you have? Any person who so chooses can run for leadership of a party with no support of the members only to win and thus destroy the parties via internal strife and politics. This is a prime example. What if he were to win by a slim majority with the rest of the party hating this guy with no affiliation and how he wiggled his way in. This could tear any party apart just like what happened to the Liberals when Roger Grimes split the party. There as to be a way for a party to vet candidates and control who is going to possibly represent them. If not you could end up losing control of a process and your parties ideals and having someone represent you who you don't agree with. Would you want that for your party?

  • Bob
    January 24, 2011 - 11:58

    I don't put much credibility in anything Tom Rideout says. Cabana should be allowed to run. He may not be much of a threat so what's the problem? We do talk about politics, a lot, and that's because of those that are politicians. I wouldn't trust them with a nickel.

  • Randy
    January 24, 2011 - 11:35

    The pc party has very few peaple left with any guts.They should imbrace Mr Cabana.He's not afraid to speak the truth,and what he thinks.The present day provincial pc's can't comprehend this.They've been told to keep quiet for to long..The biggest laugh of all is hearing Katy Dudderdale proclaim she would welcome a leadership race---How phoney can she be????

  • Ursula Dowler
    January 24, 2011 - 11:16

    It was Victor Hugo who said ,"One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas". Maybe the time has come for a clean sweep of our whole political system in this province . The idea is certainly fresh and new , and Brad Cabana , may well be the man to do it . He has proven himself to be a fighter ,start as you mean to go on Cabana . 2011 may prove to be the year that saw Newfoundlanders and Labradorians become masters of their own fate in its true sense .

  • Matt
    January 24, 2011 - 10:57

    Oh please, give it up. If you were so inspired to get involved in politics and wanted so badly to become leader of the PC Party why didn't you make yourself known until the very last minute of the nomination deadline? And I wonder why despite being able to gather together 70-something names to nominate him, no one has really stood up in Mr. Cabana defence. Perhaps Mr. Rideout was among them? Maybe the PC guidelines are a little vague. Maybe Mr. Cabana should have taken a little time and brushed up on what defines a party member. Or maybe this has all been orchestrated by another party or organization in an attempt to harm the reputation of the PC Party of Newfoundland & Labrador. NL politics are dirty, would you be surprised?

  • don
    January 24, 2011 - 10:28

    I am pleased that Mr. Cabana is apparently going to challenge the status Quo in Newfoundland politics. He may decide to back out once the difficulty of changing anything in Newfoundland sinks in. However, Mr. Cabana is absolutely right, the political system in Newfoundland is feudal and designed by the party elites to elevate the chosen few. The folks who actually control politics in Newfoundland rarely come to the public attention so they can operate below the public radar. I was surprised to discover that a significant amount of Government policy gets formulated within political parties at the insistence of people who may be in a conflict of interest situation because they may benefit in some way from the policy if it is implemented into law and legislation. I suspect that the political power brokers are somewhat annoyed and upset with Mr. Cabana. That is all the more reason why he should pursue this matter. One of Three things usually happen in these situations, one, the party will allow Mr. Cabana to run, two, the party will stop Mr. Cabana from running and risk a nasty public, media and Court fight that may ensue or three, the party will assume that Mr. Cabana can be persuaded to abandon his fight and things will be arranged to make him go away peacefully. The Government of Newfoundland rules by the use of fear and coercion. Nothing has changed in Newfoundland politics since the days when it was alleged that pub and restaurant owners were threatened with the loss of their liquor license if they did not vote for a certain Candidate or financially support a certain Party. Good luck Mr. Cabana, you are going to need all the luck and help you can get to beat this bunch!

  • Taxpayertoo
    January 24, 2011 - 09:47

    Mr. Cabana, assuming you heart is in the right place why not try running as a minister first. I think you need a little more than 1 year’s residence and mayor of 90 to be premiere of our fair province.

    • mel
      February 06, 2011 - 17:40

      maybe Brad should go to Alberta and replace Stelamch

  • John
    January 24, 2011 - 09:24

    Rideout is right, let him run. Blocking Cabana and intimidating him would make it look like Joey days all over again. Something which happened occasionally with Danny when he didn't get his own way.

  • Old Man Winter
    January 24, 2011 - 09:24

    Does he really thing he'd have a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected? What's his name again? Joe Banana? Fred Havana? .......please.

  • OMJ
    January 24, 2011 - 09:04

    so you were rejected by the party that you are trying to lead...do you think that if you win the nomination that you are going to get the leadership ? You need to move on Mr. Cabana.

  • sam
    January 24, 2011 - 08:58

    This guy is nuts!! To say people in NL are scared to talk about politics...where is he living?? The people here live and breathe politics...i would say we are the most politically astute people in the province!! Just listen to open line or read the newspapers! This guy is a joke!! It is scary to think of him leading anything. Imagine this guy coming here and saying that no one else can run the province. The people will decide that in October. Go run in the provincial election and play it from there!!

  • Rick
    January 24, 2011 - 08:07

    Let me start by saying, I am not against a leadership race, however this pile of BULL FESCES that Brad Cabana is getting on with just boils my blood. He should go back to Sask. And be the mayor of the small town he came from. It wouldn’t bother me if this had be a resident born and bred here, but to have some smart ass come to Newfoundland think he’s better than everyone else, and get on this way, should be run out of the province.

    • Abdul Saieed
      January 24, 2011 - 11:54

      "Born and bred" Your small-minded chauvinism is disgusting. It's idots like you who make me ashamed to be a Newfoundlander at times.

  • Don Lester
    January 24, 2011 - 07:54

    I don't know what Mr. Cabana is saying when he speaks about people are afraid to discuss politics, unless he is referring to the Smallwood era. I've discussed politics for years and I did not see the "political police" come after me.

  • darls
    January 24, 2011 - 07:46

    Sir ...first of all there is no one here in newfoundland that is afraid to talk about politics....we just don't care because whatever newfoundland does the federal government will just try to take anyway...as all of canada knows ...the feds have been stealing our resourses for decades.....and secondly....grow up and don't be so childish....go back to where you came from and let us live our lives...who in their right minds would vote for you anyway...your just another mainlander trying to cash in on us....we don't want you here.....get the message and move on.....

    • Shannon Reardon
      January 24, 2011 - 13:48

      "grow up and don't be so childish....go back to where you came from and let us live our lives.." Love the contradiction!!