Being interim premier was one thing for Kathy Dunderdale, but getting voted into the office would be another.
“It’s significant for me,” the Progressive Conservative leader told The Telegram during an interview on the Tory tour bus this week.
“It’s one thing to be a caretaker. It’s another thing to be in charge. And that’s the difference between the two positions.”
Unless she or someone in her party makes a ballot-bombing boo-boo, or numerous election polls are as off-the-mark as New Coke, Dunderdale will get that mandate after the votes are counted Tuesday.
She inherited the final 10 months of the PCs’ second term in office in early December, after Danny Williams stepped down and named her interim premier.
Dunderdale didn’t want the premier’s job at first, but changed her mind a few weeks into it.
She was sworn in back in April and now finds herself on the verge of leading the Tories to their third straight election win.
The party is far ahead in all the polls, the latest being a Corporate Research Associates poll conducted for The Telegram that found 44 per cent of respondents favoured the PCs.
That’s more than double the second-place New Democrats, which had the backing of 18 per cent.
Dunderdale said the prospect of being voted in doesn’t faze her.
“Not that I’m over-confident,” she added.
“Someone said to me the other week, ‘You’re fearless.’ But I’m not fearless. I’m always prepared to find a way forward, and when you work with people honestly and you’re prepared to speak the truth to them as they are to you, then I really do believe you can find solutions. They might not always be what you started out thinking they might be, but you will find a way forward. If you’re committed to that piece, I try not to worry about the rest of it. Solutions will come.”
Even though Dunderdale appears poised to become premier, it’s evident her predecessor still enjoys immense popularity.
In The Telegram-CRA poll, while 55 per cent of respondents said they would most prefer Dunderdale as premier, more of them would still be willing to vote for Williams.
Those polled were asked, “If Danny Williams were leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative party, for which party would you vote?”
Some 68 per cent said they would vote Tory, compared with 11 per cent who said NDP and 10 per cent for the Liberals.
One per cent said they do not plan to vote and nine per cent were undecided on that question.
CRA president and CEO Don Mills said Dunderdale has done well to maintain her party’s position and has the strongest numbers among political leaders in Atlantic Canada.
He also acknowledged Williams’ appeal.
“He still can command a great deal of respect and following,” he said.
The poll has a sample size of 800, was conducted between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points with a confidence level of 95 per cent.
Dunderdale said being so far ahead in the polls will not change Tory strategy in the campaign’s final days.
“One thing I know is you work your plan,” she said.
“Not to say you can’t be agile and responsive in terms of the strategy you’ve laid out for yourself, but you shouldn’t be easily diverted from the plan you laid out either.”
Dunderdale said her party has focused on what’s important.
“People are responding to that so we just keep doing that.”