2011 not a great year for Grits

James McLeod
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Former leader Yvonne Jones reflects on a tumultuous year — personally and politically

Yvonne Jones. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Former Liberal leader Yvonne Jones doesn’t mince words.

For Jones, it was the year she beat cancer, but also the year she was forced to step down as party leader because of her health.

The Liberal Party retained Official Opposition status in the fall provincial election, but it has recently fallen to 13 per cent public support in the polls — the lowest levels in party history.

“I can honestly say that 2011 is a year that I won’t regret putting behind me, in a lot of ways,” Jones said. “I dealt with a number of challenges personally.”

Jones sat down and spoke with The Telegram earlier this month in her final days as Opposition leader. Earlier this month, Humber Valley MHA Dwight Ball was named as the new interim leader.

Jones was officially told by her doctors she was cancer-free in the spring of this year, following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. However, in August, when she found that she wasn’t recovering from treatment as quickly as she expected, Jones was forced to step down from the party leadership only two months before the provincial election.

With a few months’ distance, Jones said she doesn’t have any regrets.

“I’ve never really given much thought. I’ll be honest with you, I made the decision and I was firm in the decision I made,” she said. “I let the party take control from there.”

Former MHA Kevin Aylward, who picked up the reins from Jones, acknowledged the changeover represented a “crisis” for the party, but at the same time, “the outcome for the Liberal Party in 2011 was successful — given the circumstances.”

See PARTY, page A4

Aylward failed to win a seat in the provincial election though, so earlier this month the party announced that Ball would move into the leader’s role.

As Ball took the reins of the party, he talked about a need to reinforce the organization of the party, and get in touch with rank-and-file members.

“I believe that team building is what we need right now. We need to reach out to Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans, to listen to their hopes and to their dreams,” he said. “I plan on spending a lot of time on the road, engaging the grassroots of the party and encouraging new interest in what we have to offer.”

Apart from rebuilding the structure of the party, the Liberals face challenges on the issues, as well.

Jones made the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development central to the party’s policy position. During the spring session of the House of Assembly, she asked questions on the issues every day, in some cases devoting more than half of the party’s allotted time to the single issue.

During the election, Aylward made the fishery front-and-centre to his election platform, and argued that the government hasn’t done enough to support rural Newfoundland.

Neither issue gained traction with the voters, though, and in the wake of the election the Progressive Conservative government is moving forward with a mandate to develop Muskrat Falls.

Jones said she believes the voters don’t fully understand the development deal yet, and she hopes that will change before it’s too late.

“The majority of the people in this province today do not really understand the full implications of what Muskrat Falls will actually mean to them in terms of their own financial situation,” she said. “Unfortunately, in Newfoundland and Labrador, we often become engaged in the debate once the debate is over, and I hope that doesn’t happen with Muskrat Falls.”

But as the party moves into 2012, sitting at 16 per cent in a recent public opinion poll, Jones put forward a confident face, saying she’s proud to be a Liberal.

“Liberal governments have contributed more to the success of this province than any other political party in our history,” she said. “It was a Liberal government and a Liberal party that negotiated the best deals in our history. Do I have any shame in that? Absolutely not.”


Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Liberal Party, The Telegram

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • W McLean
    December 28, 2011 - 15:18

    It's remarkable how four of the single-name comment-posters share many of the same bad spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Why, it's almost as if — no, it couldn't be — they are invented personae from the same hand.

    December 28, 2011 - 14:41

    Steve, I agree with you and Greg on this one,Because that what my party need to do.Like yesterday.I was keeping my eye on the fishery, In my town Marystown and Port union.I read all newpaper comment. I know the Liberal made a big mistake, when they let this GUY to get away. Read all the comment from ( STANDING ON GUARD ) in the telegramDec 23/2011 paper,tell me what do you think?

  • Steve Winslow
    December 28, 2011 - 14:13

    Of course Danny was elected leader of the PCs in a multi-ballot vote after a very closely fought leadership campaign against several distinguished opponents. How soon we forget!

  • Greg
    December 28, 2011 - 13:46

    Liberal continue to make the same mistake, when picking a leader for the party. This is why they keep on failing with the people.What they to do, pick out 4 or 5 of there pass candidate,from there last election,Get 500 or 600 people in a hall, let those candidate make there presentation . and then vote on a Leader. Remember what took place in Humber Valley,wasn't a leadership race.

  • Charles
    December 28, 2011 - 13:26

    Whats we need in a Leader is someone,who can create job's. To help the young to stay at home. to build a FUTURE , So far the Liberal are doing a very poor job of that. Ms Jones please take your thing , and move on, Take Judy Morrow and the new Liberal with you.

  • Scott
    December 28, 2011 - 13:02

    Liberal was the party for the people,Now they are the party for themself.Now they are trying to sell Mr Ball to the public, in 2015 the pc will still be in power.And my Liberal party will be the thing of the pass, all because the way they pick a leader. Mr Ball if your reciveing my tax dollar...get your ass in gear. Let the people of the province,know if you got any plan for the people.

  • John Smith
    December 28, 2011 - 12:31

    if the Liberals are trying to figure out what went wrong they should look no further than who is in the party. It is people like Yvonne jones and the rest that are responsible for the current state of the party. The whole time she was leader all I ever heard her do was complain, complain, complain. Never once did they offer a viable alternative. While Mr. Williams was in ottawa getting a multi billion dollar cheque, and signing the Hebron deal the liberals were still squaking about how much office space they had, and how little they had to pay for their assistants. Yvonne Jones is one of the main reasons why many turned from the liberals.

    • W McLean
      December 28, 2011 - 15:16

      "Complain complain complain"? That's what oppositions do. That's what Dear Leader Chairman Dan did from 2001 to 2003. Didn't work out so bad for him.

  • Dianne
    December 28, 2011 - 12:23

    Ms Jones you have to face fact's, The Liberal are not going anywhere, All because of the leader that the party appoint,Now look like the people of the province,will be paying , for one more ;leader, his only concern is paying down the Liberal debt. Let Mr Ball go to Marystown and Port Union, to tell the people what he got plan for them. That should not be to hard for him to do.

  • Cyril Rogers
    December 28, 2011 - 10:10

    Well, Roy, they did try a lot of things that did not work out while the PC's generally sit on their hands and just spend the oil money. The really significant deals did work well for the province, with the only real exception being the Upper Churchill. Now, we have your PC buddies about to make an equally bad deal for the province and, like Joey near the end of his time in office, they don't want to listen to anybody either. As Ms Jones stated, we are often too complacent and let our politicians make these terrible deals without question. Time for you and others to wake up because, if you don't, in ten years we will all be kicking ourselves for this clossal stupidity that is Muskrat Falls.

  • bob
    December 28, 2011 - 09:40

    Haha Yvonne is too funny. If the rights were known, Jones didn't leave of her own accord, she was forced out by the 'old boys' club. And what's even funnier is that she believes that it was the Libs that negotiated the best deals in the prov...with that mentality I can see why she steppedforced down as leader. Let's not forget the Upper Churchill, or who put all the fish plants in every little crook and cranney around the province? Oh yeah and as Roy mentioned, Clyde Wells scrapping all the contracts in the early 90's. And the list goes on and on! So Yvonne do as your 2003 slogan said 'take a closer look'!

  • yah
    December 28, 2011 - 08:50

    Hmmm, what about Hibernia, Roy, and White Rose, and Voisey's Bay?? I enjoy your revisionism and how you intentionally left those out. Liberal oil deals are responsible for the boom we are experiencing now. Don't try to rewrite history, Roy! And what about the PC's? Remember Sprung?? lol. Remember Abitibi?? Remember Danny said no mills would close on his watch and there'd be "no more giveaways"??!! And once Muskrat Falls happens, that will rank right up there with the Upper Churchill. C'mon, Roy. Be balanced!

  • roy
    December 28, 2011 - 08:28

    Please list the great deals that the liberal Govt has done for NL, was it the giving away our fish to be mamaged by ottawa, was it the upper churchill, was it the rubber factory in Holyroad, the birch plant in topsail, the steel mill in topsail, the Adlers choclate bar factory, the linerboard factory, the Sheehan oil refinery. The battery plant that ended up making lic plates, all done to get people away from the fishery that they neglected other than build fish plants in every community to get votes. Remember JC Doyle, OL Vardy who skipped the country. How about Clyde Wells destroying negiated. contracts that affect workers till their dying day. Are these some of thw good things.