Osborne leaves PC party

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James McLeod
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Veteran Tory says he never supported 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, he a crowd of around 50 people turned out who interrupted him with applause multiple times during his announcement, and gave him a standing ovation when he finished.

Both the Liberals and the NDP were prepared to welcome him in 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.”

Organizations: NDP, House of Assembly.Osborne

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  • William Power
    September 16, 2012 - 10:22

    I've noticed that Steve Kent has been pretty vocal about Tom Osbourne leaving the PC party. I wonder if his conscience bothered him about jumping ship from the Liberal party to run for the PC's? I would suggest that Kent should probably keep a lower profile on this matter, considering his own real political affiliations are somewhat murky. I hate political opportunists, and that's the best I can say about Kent.

  • steve
    September 16, 2012 - 09:17

    Derek, first thing Tom Osborne doesn't need to recuit any volunteers. He hasn't had to for many years. Second if a by-election was called tomorrow. You would see Tom Win by the largest margin of any district in the Province. Find something else to wine about.

  • JPaul
    September 15, 2012 - 19:39

    It's not the political stripe that makes the man,it's how he works for his consistuency. Tom is very well respected and liked by all who know him. All of his former tory colleagues who are giving there two cents opinion will eat there words come election time. Dunderdale is slipping constantly in the polls she may choose to ignore this but it is reality. Her cozy comfy relationship with Harper does nothing for her popularity, along with renagging on a promise to speak with Burton Winters parents didn't help either. Bill C29 and Felix Collins rant in the house turned my stomach. I hope Tom takes up with the NDP because the writing is on the wall, they will form the next government both Provincial and Federal.

  • daphne walsh
    September 15, 2012 - 13:11

    Dear Editor:You would want to be blind not to see that Tom Osborne was not in favor of Kathy Dunderdale as Premier. I am one of Tom's constitients;who also advised him to leave the P.C. Party. I have noticed that it Tom longer to get things done.Not being able to do as well as he should have meant thathe was breaking his only promis to his constitients.To do the best job he could. As for the party saying it is stronger without Osborne;they best think hard about what they say publickly. Tom Osborne was voted in by the people of St.John's South. Are they (the P.C.Party) saying the voters who voted Tom in office are dumb. I don't know about other voters but I feel insulted by that remark. In answer to Minister Darin King question;why and why now? The answer is easy. Dunderdale has proven his instints were right & why not now? Remove the weakest link & the chain is stronger; may be true ! In this case the chain has broken. One has to wonder what kind of people we have in Government?That they can sit back and let this happen in the first place. As for Steve Kent, I wonder how many times he has done something he knew was not right, or it didn't sit well. Is there a hidden agenda going on .After all the years Tom has been electicted time and time again. Should this have not spoken volumnsto our Premier and other members. It's a sad day for the P.C.Party toloose a good man like Tom Osborne. How much longer Mrs. Premier did you think he was going to let himself be walked over; When you walk over him you also walk over the People of St. John's South. Don't we the people matter anymore? In reguard to the P.C.Party closeing ranks on Mr. Osborne because he chose to leave; SHAME ON YOU. My father as well as a lot of other men and women faught a war putting their lives at risk, so we could have freedom.You are all supposed to be doing the best job for the p[eople! Not attactting someone who decided to fix what he deems to be broken. Mrs. Daphne Evans Walsh

  • daphne
    September 15, 2012 - 13:09

    Dear Editor:You would want to be blind not to see that Tom Osborne was not in favor of Kathy Dunderdale as Premier. I am one of Tom's constitients;who also advised him to leave the P.C. Party. I have noticed that it Tom longer to get things done.Not being able to do as well as he should have meant thathe was breaking his only promis to his constitients.To do the best job he could. As for the party saying it is stronger without Osborne;they best think hard about what they say publickly. Tom Osborne was voted in by the people of St.John's South. Are they (the P.C.Party) saying the voters who voted Tom in office are dumb. I don't know about other voters but I feel insulted by that remark. In answer to Minister Darin King question;why and why now? The answer is easy. Dunderdale has proven his instints were right & why not now? Remove the weakest link & the chain is stronger; may be true ! In this case the chain has broken. One has to wonder what kind of people we have in Government?That they can sit back and let this happen in the first place. As for Steve Kent, I wonder how many times he has done something he knew was not right, or it didn't sit well. Is there a hidden agenda going on .After all the years Tom has been electicted time and time again. Should this have not spoken volumnsto our Premier and other members. It's a sad day for the P.C.Party toloose a good man like Tom Osborne. How much longer Mrs. Premier did you think he was going to let himself be walked over; When you walk over him you also walk over the People of St. John's South. Don't we the people matter anymore? In reguard to the P.C.Party closeing ranks on Mr. Osborne because he chose to leave; SHAME ON YOU. My father as well as a lot of other men and women faught a war putting their lives at risk, so we could have freedom.You are all supposed to be doing the best job for the p[eople! Not attactting someone who decided to fix what he deems to be broken. Mrs. Daphne Evans Walsh

  • jeremiah
    September 15, 2012 - 07:20

    No great loss. Just a big sook because he wasn't given a cabinet seat. Couldn't handle it when he was there. Deadwood for sure.

  • Informed
    September 14, 2012 - 23:12

    Simply stated: Osborne, a man of integrity, made the right decision.

  • David.
    September 14, 2012 - 21:16

    Why is this a shock. Many of us would have done the same thing if we were MHA's. Well done Tom. Free speech is vital in Politics and other organisations. Eastern Health is another which tries to keep employees down. History repeats.. the PC Berlin wall is coming down.

  • Political Watcher
    September 14, 2012 - 13:53

    Eli, well said. 20 years as a Constable and not one promotion? He was only a mouth piece. Even as a Councillor he wasn't aware that there ws any part of CBS west of the Manuels bridge. As for Kent, all he did as Mayor was to cost the City money; sure after he realized he had relatives in Ireland the City all of a sudden had interest there and he took three trips over on the City's dime. Can't wait to see what excuses he provides to Dean MacDonald when he looks to cross back over.

  • derek
    September 14, 2012 - 12:35

    If Osborne is leaving the PC Party, he should be leaving his job altogether. He ran a campaign, received financial backing, recruited volunteers, set up an office, made up signs........all to do with supporting the Dunderdale leadership and for the PC Party. If he doesn't want that responsility for which he ran anymore, he should resign his job and a bi-election should be held. Can't have your cake and eat it too Tom!

  • Eli
    September 14, 2012 - 12:07

    Hey Darren King; If Tom is so inept perhaps you'd like to give an opinion on Davis and Kent just to name a few id'gits in the PC caucus. TV exposure and nothing else is why the PC's invited Davis (a 20-year constable?) onboard and Kent kept his name out there as the young punk deputy mayor of Mt. Pearl. He's not quite as vocal about his role in the conduct of Boy Scouts Canada.