Liberal convention all about rebuilding

James
James McLeod
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Rae slams Penashue for ‘bought’ 2011 election

Interim federal Liberal Leader Bob Rae

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.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

 Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Conservatives, CBC, Pennecon NDP

Geographic location: Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • taxpayer
    November 04, 2012 - 10:03

    rebuilding you say. it appears from this article that they only have attack after attack against the harper government. what do they have to offer to canadians? my question to the liberals: where is the money taken from taxpayers through adscam? look in the mirrow liberals, before you whine whine whine

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 04, 2012 - 09:37

    I concur fundamentally with much of what MUNTANTUR is saying but, as always, my preference is that contributors to these pages identify themselves. If unable to do so out of fear of reprisals, all the more reason why we need to change the system of governance. In any event, the problem for me is that ALL political parties have become too myopic and they are all about optics. The sound principles and statesmanship we need is sorely lacking. Having money, such as was the case with the former premier, does not deter them from using our money to increase their own popularity. Had that administration held the line on public expenditures, put aside some money in a Heritage Fund, and not tired to become a oil player, we would be in far better shape today. They put money aside, but it went to their pet baby(NALCOR), whose end game was to foist the Muskrat Falls project on u, and now we appear to have no recourse because none of us are "experts". Unless the Liberal Party can get to a point where it becomes a more grassroots organization, I see no reason to support them in future. The problem there is, where else does one cast a ballot and not have to "hold my nose" when voting? There is a wonderful opportunity for the Liberals to do just that over the next two years but anointing Mr. Mac Donald would simply entrench the status quo.

  • wurliman
    November 04, 2012 - 07:59

    MUNTANTUR is right. The Liberals are on a path to destruction if they go for a Macdonald coronation. Let us hope there is time to find a credible candidate, who knows he is a liberal and not an opportunist. Also what a mistake to have potential candidates on the Renewal Committee. Liberals currently have a Leader and he should have been the Chairman. No difficulty in communicating any ideas later to aspiring candidates. We are heading for another disaster...remember past ones ?.

  • Tim Jamison
    November 03, 2012 - 21:22

    Adscam, the long gun registry, the wheat board. Here's hoping the Liberal Party soon finishes taking it's long walk off a short plank

  • Muntantur - the status non-quo
    November 03, 2012 - 13:49

    I'm not a Liberal, or an NDP or a Tory. Like a growing number of Newfoundlanders, I vote based on what each of the parties, the leaders and the candidates have on offer at election time. I did twice vote for Williams. But, frankly, I came to question that second vote in the aftermath of revelations regarding his massive real estate holdings, his personal selection of Dunderdale as his successor, his subsequent pissing match over her refusal to go along with a partisan appointment to the CNLOPB, and the extent to which his Muskrat scheme has come to test not only the bounds of economic sanity but also the very worth of our democratic institutions. I know for certain that I will not be voting Dunderdale come the next election. So it's down to Michaels or whomever the Liberals choose as their new leader. If the Liberals continue on the path toward coronation of Dean MacDonald, then I will be holding my nose and voting for Michaels. (Holding my nose because electing any NDP government poses some risk to the provincial treasury.) It isn't that I dislike MacDonald. As a person, I think he's competent, sensible and perhaps even well intentioned. Nor do I hold against him that he is a friend or former business partner of Williams. No my difficulty with MacDonald is the readiness, even eagerness with which he embraced this Muskrat boondoggle and what that one decision represents in terms of a future MacDonald government. What it forebodes is another giveaway government, a government that spends a disproportionate amount of time and resources chasing industrial pipe-dreams, a government that is forever willing to burden an already overburdened taxpayer to provide financial inducements to fat-cat corporations whose only contribution - other than creating a few short term jobs - is to deplete this province's natural resources as rapidly as possible and pass us back the contaminated empty husk of their money pits for us to clean-up. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for industry, investment, and job creation provided it is sustainable and provided the public is getting a fair share of the wealth being generated by our own resources. In fairness to Danny, he did exactly that when dealing with Exxon even though the present government has since allowed this second largest company in the world to walk away from its very minimal commitment to local benefits. What we need in this province is a new toughness when dealing with big business - just as we need a much stronger recognition and support for small business (which has been the real economic engine in this province for decades). What we need is a government that can tell Alderon and its ilk that they will need to pony up for power and infrastructure in a way that doesn't pass along their costs to the lowly taxpayer. We need a government that can tell the OCIs of the world without hesitation or equivocation that if they want our fish, they will have to pay for it - with long-term employment. A government that can turn the tables on a federal government that has gotten away with a half-century of abuse of Canada's newest province in everything from fish management, to shoddy transportation links, to inadequate search and rescue and to a level of political treachery that would have sent any other province packing thirty years ago. My point is that the Liberals need to think long and hard about the issue of leadership before anointing Dean MacDonald. They have to ask themselves whether they should be looking for a game changer. Someone who recognizes that this province is facing a fork in the road. One way leads us to more of the same, wherein a small segment of the population flourishes while the remainder languishes, and even more worrisome, where government rolls the dice on outrageous projects like Muskrat with monies it doesn't have and for which future generations of Newfoundlanders could pay dearly. The other road leads to slower, steadier and, in the long run, more sustainable growth based on education, innovation, the development of local skills and the careful harnessing of our natural resources to produce long term benefits. For that we need a leader who is not only intelligent, but also thoughtful, respectful, honest, and courageous.