Another day, another contender

James McLeod
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Coffey breaks into Liberal leadership race; nominations close noon today

Bern Coffey — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Things started to firm up Thursday in the race to replace Yvonne Jones as leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

St. John’s lawyer Bern Coffey joined the race, and rumours were flying fast and furious Thursday night that former cabinet minister Chuck Furey will likely announce his candidacy this morning.

As of press time, there were only three confirmed candidates, Coffey, former Liberal MHA Danny Dumaresque and Brad Cabana, who tried to run for the PC party leadership earlier this year.

Prospective candidates will have to make up their minds quickly; nominations close at noon today, and the Liberal party brass will choose a leader by Monday morning.

On Tuesday, Jones stunned the party by announcing she would  have to step down for health reasons.

With only two months to the provincial election, the party is rushing to select a replacement leader.

For most of the day, rumours were spreading like wildfire through the party that retired Gen. Rick Hillier would be entering the race. Media reports said he was making calls to party leaders and toying with the idea of a run.

By the end of the day, though, Hillier quashed the rumours, posting an emphatic denial on Facebook.

“There has been some speculation over the last hours that I was going to run for the leadership of the Liberal party of Nfld.,” Hillier said. “I’m not! Just don’t see that, at this point, as where I am going in life.”

Of the three contenders, Coffey is widely considered to be the frontrunner.

He is best known as the lawyer for the Cameron Inquiry. In 2008, his face was frequently seen on newscasts questioning medical professionals and politicians to get to the bottom of hundreds of breast cancer testing errors at Eastern Health.

Coffey told reporters he is interested in running to oppose the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric deal.

“I’ve been concerned about the direction that the government of this province is heading in,” he said.

Coffey also pointed to the use of “windfall” oil revenues in the provincial budget, saying it can’t be sustained.

“You can’t run a government in a medium- or a long-term on that basis,” he said. “It just can’t go on. Our current government has no plan in place to deal with it. And I would, as a premier, develop such a plan and implement it.”

With only a few hours to get in or get out, all eyes will be on Furey this morning, as he decides whether to jump into the fray.

MHA Marshall Dean was also musing at joining the race, but sources said he was a less likely contender.

Dean told The Telegram Thursday afternoon he’s still mulling it over, but the whole thing was a big surprise to him.

“This kind of came somewhat suddenly on us,” he said. “Forty-eight hours is not a lot of time (to make a decision.)”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.St. John

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls

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Recent comments

  • David Day
    August 12, 2011 - 20:53

    Knock Knock Mr. Strickland, see the comment being referred to under the name Chuck for your Carribian reference. David Day

  • Rich
    August 12, 2011 - 09:43

    Yvonne Jones... she held down the fort while the rats ran away because Danny Williams could not be defeated. She has guts and took one for the team when the others wouldn't. Dumaresque... crawl back under your rock, push Grimes out of the way to make room for Chuckie. Cabana... go away, boy, take Marshall Dean with you. Bernard Coffey... finally, a good strong choice! My choice for sure! That's more like it! Just sayin'.

  • Gerry
    August 12, 2011 - 07:40

    Is Chuck Furey even resident of Newfoundland anymore? He's been living in Michigan for at least a year and on a Caribbean island for years before that while his third wife attended medical school there. Do the Liberals even have a condition that you must be a resident to run???

    • David R.F. Day
      August 12, 2011 - 08:59

      The Caribbean medical school mentioned by the commentator is actually a well established school of medicine that has produced many fine and notorious physicians. In fact, many of the physicians in the St. John’s area are graduates of that medical school. The comment made about a man’s commitment to his wife, (delaying his own career to be with her through her residencies and medical training) speaks I believe to his marriage commitment and character rather than against it. The fact that someone feels they can exclude a native Newfoundlander from his own people because he is committed to his wife starts to border on bigotry and fascism. I wonder what party the author of that comment would embrace as best representing Newfoundlanders? Dr. David R.F. Day

    • Jim Strickland
      August 12, 2011 - 11:05

      I do not see any school named in the thread. The point that I see being raised is worthy of consideration - is he a resident of Newfoundland who has filed taxes here. The remainder of david day's critique bear no response to that question at all. All moot now, Mr. Furey has decided not to run.