For the provincial Liberals, this weekend’s annual general meeting in Gander is all about getting their groove back.
The party membership will hear about plans for “renewal” and they’ll make the final decisions about how the party picks its new leader next year.
The weekend started off with a speech from federal interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, who told reporters his focus is on making it clear that the Liberal party is the only viable alternative to the governing Conservatives.
“I think it’s more than the party being viable,” he said. “I think that in many, many provinces, and at the national level, we’re the only real alternative to the Conservatives that is there with an experience in governing, that is there with a positive sense of what we need to be doing as a country, and that has a powerful vision of this country.”
Rae also spent time talking to reporters about the ongoing scandal involving Conservative Labrador MP Peter Penashue’s election campaign finances.
Reports indicate Penashue overspent by thousands of dollars during the 2011 election campaign, and accepted thousands of dollars in free flights from Provincial Airlines, contrary to election rules.
Most recently, a CBC report indicates Penashue may have accepted thousands of dollars from Pennecon Ltd. despite the fact corporate donations are illegal under Canadian election law.
“Illegal contributions, everybody knows that’s a no-no. But the real one for me is the flights and the overspending combined, because the impact of the flights is that effectively he was getting a benefit that nobody else was getting,” Rae said. “We don’t allow people to buy elections. We don’t allow people to use their money or their access to wealth or their access to private funds to give them a special advantage.”
The Liberals will be partying this weekend and recharging their spirits, but in recent months, they’ve also been doing a lot of self-reflection.
The Liberals narrowly managed to retain official opposition status in the 2011 provincial election, but they pulled in less of the popular vote than the NDP.
“One year post election, this gathering is a timely opportunity to reflect upon our hard work and commitment over the past year both provincially and federally,” provincial Liberal party president Judy Morrow said in a news release ahead of the convention. “This AGM brings closure to the provincewide renewal tour launched in April and we look forward to the report and recommendations. However, it also marks a beginning for change as the input received from residents throughout Newfoundland and Labrador is put into action as we move forward to modernize the party and avail of the political opportunities that lie ahead.”
The “renewal tour” has been reaching out to party members, trying to figure out how to rebuild the provincial party and make it competitive once again.
Renewal committee co-chairs Dean MacDonald, Siobhan Coady and Kevin Aylward are expected to lay out a plan for rebuilding the party.
The renewal plan session this weekend is highly anticipated.
The keynote speeches for the weekend will be delivered by Rae Friday night and provincial interim leader Dwight Ball Saturday night.
The Telegram will have full updates from the convention online, and a full wrap of the weekend’s events in Monday’s paper.