Osborne leaves PC party

James McLeod
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Veteran Tory says he didn’t ever support Dunderdale

MHA Tom Osborne speaks with reporters Thursday after announcing he is resigning from the PC  party to sit as an independent. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Veteran politician Tom Osborne shocked the province’s political community Thursday afternoon when he abruptly announced he’s leaving the PC party to sit as an independent in the House of Assembly.

Osborne told reporters and supporters that he never backed Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s leadership, and he felt he’d been muzzled and forced to support policies which he could not endorse.

For the moment, he’ll go his own way, but Osborne isn’t ruling out throwing his lot in with either the Liberals or the NDP.

He said in recent months, he’s been approached by many constituents encouraging him to leave the PC fold.

“For the next number of months, we will decide together whether you feel I’m best able to represent you as an independent, as an NDP or as a Liberal or maybe even go back to the party I’ve come from,” he told supporters Thursday afternoon. “But things are going to have to change in that party before I go back.”

The reaction was swift. Almost immediately, PC MHAs and cabinet ministers were questioning his motives, and closing the ranks, saying the party is stronger without Osborne in the fold.

“Tom supported Premier Dunderdale 10 months ago, he ran on our party platform and the vision that the premier laid out for this province,” Fisheries Minister Darin King said. “I think you need to ask: Why? And why now? Tom has been around the party a long time. Is this really about a policy issue or does this have something to do with the fact that Tom at one point was in cabinet in a previous government?”

Osborne was the PC party’s longest-serving MHA, and under former premier Danny Williams he was in cabinet, taking portfolios including Justice, Environment and Health.

He was demoted to deputy speaker, and eventually stripped of that role.

He comes from a family with strong Tory roots; multiple family members have been MHAs in the PC party including his mother, who retired just ahead of last fall’s general election.

Osborne said he did not support Dunderdale right from when Williams resigned in 2010, and it was no secret within the PC caucus.

“I didn’t feel she had the strength to keep our party at 70-plus per cent in the polls,” he said. “You know, I know that Danny Williams is a tough act to follow, but I didn’t feel she had the ability to do what needed to be done, and to have a strong following in the province.”

The last straw seems to have been Bill 29, the controversial ammendment to the province’s access to information legislation which broadly increased government secrecy and limited the public’s ability to access government records.

Despite voting for the legislation at the end of a four-day filibuster in May, Osborne said he wasn’t comfortable with it.

“Bill 29 is when I realized I just voted for something I just couldn’t support, didn’t support, and did it because of fear of repercussion to constituents,” he said. “I knew then that it was time for a change, it was just getting my head around the fact that I needed to make that change.”

Osborne also talked about increased control over MHAs from the premier’s office, and more political control within government.

At one time MHAs were able to take constituents’ issues directly to the bureaucrats who could get things done.

Recently they’ve been forced to go through government ministers’ political staff instead.

“For a politician who’s represented the people who I represent for over 16 years, I was always able to pick up the phone and phone the bureaucrat, and believe me, I know most of the bureaucrats who are able to get things done,” he said. “I know the bureaucrats who are able to get results for my constituents.”

Within political circles, Osborne is legendary as an MHA who works for his constituents.

At his announcement at the St. Patrick’s Parish Hall Thursday, a crowd of around 50 people turned out and interrupted his announcement with applause multiple times.

They gave him a standing ovation when he finished.

Both the Liberals and the NDP were prepared to welcome him  with open arms.

“We share many of the same political beliefs and there’s no question, we’re interested in talking to Tom and we’d love to have him as a member of our caucus,” Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, similarly said she’s ready to talk to him.

“He gave some very concrete reasons for doing so, and it seems that he has made a decision based on his conscience,” she said. “From that perspective, I’m sure it took a lot of courage for him to do what he has done.”


Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: NDP, House of Assembly.Osborne

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Recent comments

  • Political Observer
    September 14, 2012 - 10:20

    I’m not in Tom Osborne’s district but, I am aware that his constituents respect and admire him and he is always there for them. He is so dedicated and works tirelessly for them. I hope he doesn’t join up with another party. I hope he stays loyal to the PC party which may be hard to do right now under the current leadership. Maybe he should wait and run federally in the next federal election. The thing with constituents is they love you while you are getting them things, once you are no longer able to provide this service, they can turn on you in an instance. I hope his constituents show him the same loyalty as he has shown them. I don’t blame him for leaving the party. He was the only PC voted within the inner city core in Kathy’s election and he wasn’t even rewarded. What a slap in the face. He has given over 16 years to this party, he wasn’t involved in the Constituency scandal and he is a much respected politician. He was there in Ed Byrne’s government so if he wanted to flee a sinking ship, he could of done so then. Maybe he couldn’t manage the Finance Minister’s position or Natural Resources but, I’m sure he could manage Tourism or definitely Advanced Education because he can’t be any worst than Joan Burke. I have been a PC for going on 40 years and I even have reservations about the leadership and the policies of the party. I wouldn’t doubt but our government will change next election because even if Cathy sees it coming, she won’t give up being Premier, she would rather sink the PC government.

  • Jim
    September 14, 2012 - 10:18

    The NDP looks good, Tom, especially in the polls and in St. John's. Don't go with that terrible stand-in Ball and the untested and underwhelming coming Saviour for the Liberals.

  • Bob's Your Uncle
    September 14, 2012 - 09:56

    Let the rats leave the sinking ship!! Put another nail in the PC party's coffin. Too bad there is not alternative party to vote for, as I am sure if there was they would be in office by now.

  • Duggan
    September 14, 2012 - 09:38

    His defection is a news story but Tom Osbourne is no asset to any political party. It's yet another jab at Dunderdale who is already punch drunk. If he goes to the NDP it will also be another condemnation of the decaying Liberals who cannot even attract flies anymore.

  • Stephen
    September 14, 2012 - 09:32

    Floor crossing is the epitome of anti-democratic parliamentary activity. Osborne is gutless - resign and run again as either an independent or for a different party. It is supreme arrogance to assume that every vote you received on election day was a personal endorsement only, when so many people put their X next to your name to express their personal satisfaction with the government and YES its leader..

    • Willi Makit
      September 14, 2012 - 11:09

      Your last name wouldn't happen to be 'Kent' would it Stephen? Anyone that votes for a party vs. a person deserves the representation they get - or don't get. Screw the party system, if we all voted for strong representation rather than colour we'd have much stronger and effective governments instead of quasi-dictatorships who represent nobody but themselves.

  • saelcove
    September 14, 2012 - 09:31

    Williams made a mess of things not stunderdale lay the blame where it belongs

  • saelcove
    September 14, 2012 - 09:27

    Meet the new leader of the Liberal party of Newfounfland

  • tom claw
    September 14, 2012 - 09:21

    In the age old tradition of changing horses mid stream, Tom goes side saddle. A move first perfected by JOEY, Peckford, Rideout, John (Blowhard) Crosbie. Shove her down Tom, u did the right thing! Blunderdale said she would not seek the prenmiership, the Newfies got what they wanted, God bless them, But Hold on KATHY This ain't Burin, Newfies went COOL , the media and their BS about a woman leader is needed, and now they see Poor Kathy is a POOR spectacle of a leader, she is a declawed lap Dog. I can see Harper Grinning now, and he and Fabian laughing their asses off at her. Hold on "now the solution is Elaine Michael??? A novena may be in order hey lorraine because all will be lost. Poor Newfoundland!

  • HarbourMaster
    September 14, 2012 - 09:12

    Here Here Tom ! It took a bit if guts but good for you to exit the Dunderale administration. What is frightening though is when asked about Muskrat Falls on NTV he said he couldn't comment because he didn't have enough information. What is going on here ? We have already spent $1 Billion and we want to spend up to another $9 Billion and the PC caucus do not have the information !!! This exemplifies just how Dunderdale is NOT managing our province.

  • Kent up or down
    September 14, 2012 - 09:04

    VOCM says: "But Kent says if there are others who are dissatisfied , he'd like for them to speak out. " This could mean two things: 1) Kent is also dissatisfied and wants others to speak out with him because he is afraid to speak out with only Osborne on his side. 2) Kent is sastisfied and wants a promotion so he wants other members with higher senority to leave.

  • Jim
    September 14, 2012 - 08:57

    The NDP looks good, Tom, especially in the polls and in St. John's. Don't go with that terrible stand-in Ball and the untested and underwhelming coming Saviour for the Liberals.

  • Margaret
    September 14, 2012 - 08:54

    There is more going on "behind the scenes" and eventually it will all come out.

  • Ken W
    September 14, 2012 - 08:11

    Kathy Dunderdale is not capable of running our province. She don't demand respect from the federal government. She does not fight for us as a Province she is closing the policies that Danny made to protect tax payers money from fraud. Seriously I will be shocked if she has a majority government next election. I won't be shocked if the P.C wont even make government next election. She is not the person to run this province. I think Tom did a wonderful thing by going by what he feels is right. Just sad how the party has become. Danny Williams showed what a premier should do. Kathy Dunderdale is showing what a premier shouldn't. Tom leaving is only another nail in Dunderdale's political coffin.

    • a business man
      September 14, 2012 - 08:54

      Ken, in all seriousness, what if I, as a NL taxpayer and voter, actually WANT a premier that cannot stand up to the federal government? For ME, the well-being of Ontario, BC, and Alberta is more important the well-being of newfoundland. So, it is in my interests when federal interests override newfoundland's interests. Yes you may disagree, but I have rights and my vote, and I am happy that the national agenda trumps newfoundland. For me (and my pocket), having a premier who cannot stand up to the feds is a quality that I look for when casting my ballot in newfoundland. I mean no disrespect, but rather am trying to raise a different, legitimate and actual perspective.

  • Jeremiah
    September 14, 2012 - 07:56

    He was way, way over his head as cabinet minister and the premier was right not to have him in her cabinet. Sour grapes for sure and no great loss. Rats always are the first to leave a sinking ship this one made a mistake, the ship only has a slight list and will right itself in time.

  • cpbilpdn
    September 14, 2012 - 06:58

    "Osborne said the turning point for him came during debate over Bill 29, the legislation that limited the amount of public access to government information." First of all, I am dissatisfied with DONEderdaleI and feel that Bill 29 should not have been passed into legislation, however I can't help but wonder why Osbourne voted for Bill 29 if he was so opposed to it. I honestly believe that several things came into play for Osbourne lately, an epihany if you will....... * that he is in the back benches * that the PC's are dropping in the opinion polls * his chances of re-election as a PC in Dipper St. John's during the next election. * that the NDP are rising in the polls I can't help but think that political opportunism is a huge motivating factor here, that Osbourne is carefully watching the polls, and that that IF Osbourne opts to wear orange apparel, he will have proven to be a political opportunist.

    • Eli
      September 14, 2012 - 07:18

      What you're missing is party solidarity. People lose all credibility when they get into politics. You go with the flow as dictated by the BACKROOM manipulators or you're OUT! Plain & simple. That Boy Scout from Mt. Pearl is actually comical in his condemnation of Osbourne.

  • citizen
    September 14, 2012 - 06:57

    i am not in his riding but through the years i have heard nothing but respect and admiration for him from people who do live in his riding. i think his followers will follow him brcause of the sincere person he is.

  • Gerry
    September 14, 2012 - 06:55

    Your decision is a bold one Tom. Please choose to stay on as an Independent member if you are still loyal to the PC Party. Joining one of the other parties will only test your credibility and sincerity. Good luck in whatever you choose to do.

  • original townie
    September 14, 2012 - 06:44

    In all my years I have never seen any politician do anything that did not benefit themselves first. Before you through accolades at Mr. Osborne you must realize he was going nowhere in the PC party. He had his day and never made it. From minister to member. A disgruntled employee?

    • More like original party shill
      September 14, 2012 - 07:23

      Rom Osborne had nothing to prove or gain. I believe that he is sincere, he's not the first loyal PC party member to turn their back on Dunderdale, and he won't be the last.

  • roland winters
    September 14, 2012 - 06:36

    Say what you want, Tom Osborne was a pillar of integrity and honesty. It is a reflection of problems within the party, and the public's view of the PC leadership. It is regretable and shamefull, the reaction of some of his former collegues, within the party, of Tom's descision to leave.

  • Paul
    September 14, 2012 - 06:29

    Well done. At least one MHA believes in what is right and knows he works for the people and not the party. Congratulations Mr. Osborne I wish there were more MHA's like you.