Liberals say they’re learning from their mistakes

James McLeod
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Liberal Leader Dwight Ball speaks to party members at their annual general meeting in Gander Saturday evening. The weekend convention was focused on party renewal and restructuring. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

The message at the Liberal Party convention this weekend was repeated over and over again: things are getting better.

After nearly a decade in opposition, and one year past a disappointing election result last October, party members heard time after time that their stock is on

the rise in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I think the last election said that we need to pull up our bootstraps, didn’t it?” said former MP Siobhan Coady, who was at the centre of the party’s Renewal Committee.

Coady, along with renewal committee co-chairs Dean MacDonald and Kevin Aylward, delivered a plan to party members behind closed doors over the weekend for how to make the Liberal Party viable again.

They wouldn’t go into specifics, except to say that the party needs to improve in four broad areas: policy, communications, organization and leadership.

MacDonald said the renewal plan is a roadmap for how to put the party in a position to win the next general election in 2015. He made no apologies for keeping it secret.

“I’m not going to tell the guys on the other side of the football field, here’s the passing play we have coming up,” he said.

“You can be the most open party in the world, but I don’t think you invite the world in to see what your campaign strategy is going to be.”

But if the goal is winning in 2015, the party still faces major challenges.

It’s currently polling third behind the governing PC party and the NDP. Moreover, the Liberal party is nearly $800,000 in debt, and that number has been steadily increasing in the last few years, since the party hasn’t been paying down the principal, and it’s getting dinged with $32,000 in interest and penalties every year.

“This is a big number, right? It’s scary,” said John Hogan, the party’s outgoing treasurer. “We’ve been in discussion with our lenders constantly for the last three years. They know the situation of the party. They know it was a lot of money to expect, especially when you had three members in the House of Assembly. It’s very hard to raise money.”

Hogan hinted that those discussions are close to bearing fruit.

Interim Leader Dwight Ball went further, saying the debt will be completely paid off by 2015.

Within party members at the convention, there seemed to be a sense that the party is learning from past mistakes.

Delegate Bruce Layman pointed to communication — one of the issues the renewal committee identified.

“You’ve got to be able to communicate. The ordinary guy on the ground has got to be able to pick up the phone and call someone and get an answer or at least be able to talk to his representative from his district or his member or something like that,” he said. “That was lacking in the past with the Liberal party because everything fell into disarray, and of course, we took a whipping for it. But of course, live and learn.”

Similarly, members seemed to be spending a lot of time thinking about the need to “lead, not oppose” — one of the renewal committees ideas.

In his keynote speech Saturday night, Ball spent a lot of time attacking Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s government — at one point saying he doesn’t trust her to run a lemonade stand — but he said he also tried to offer alternatives.

“As an opposition, I’m not satisfied with where this government is taking us, so my role as the leader of the opposition is to address that. So that’s what I did (Saturday night),” he said, pointing to the government’s Bill 29 restrictions on access to information as an example.

“The leadership that we’ve shown on that is that, you know what? When we form government, we’re going to repeal Bill 29. So that’s leadership there; we recognize a bad piece of legislation and we’ve made a commitment already to repeal it.”

Federal Liberal interim Leader Bob Rae struck a hopeful tone in a speech Friday night. He argued that the Liberal party’s values — economic prudence, social justice, substantiality and national unity — are strong enough to keep the party afloat, as long as it learns from its mistakes.

“We cannot ever again allow ourselves to become divided among ourselves. We cannot ever get ourselves in a situation where conflicts of personality or rivalries between people get in the way of what we have to do as a party,” he said.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Liberal Party, Renewal Committee, NDP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Matthew
    November 06, 2012 - 09:32

    The photographs that are coming out from the annual meeting show all the former staff people from Siobhan Coady and Roger Grimes. Ball even kept Yvonne Jones' Chief of Staff who is getting a pension and a salary from the same office! Time to move on and get some capable people in there.

  • David
    November 05, 2012 - 16:45

    At least your "mistakes" aren't costing taxpayers let's keep you out of office for awhile longer.....until you get everything figured out.

  • Tim Jamison
    November 05, 2012 - 14:03

    Once a theif...

  • Wackarnolds
    November 05, 2012 - 09:44

    So this guy Macdonald? Danny's bud, he has to wait for muskrat to be sancationed before he can run for the liberals? If that is the case, then is he just waiting to get his ducks in row and get in on this lop sided MRF deal before any conflict of interest and then get in the house to protect their investments? I always wondered by these multi-millionarses wanted to take such a pay cut to get into the is an investment and everyone pays!

  • Don
    November 05, 2012 - 08:57

    As long as Yvonne Jones got her face before the cameras , the liberals will always be a bunch of losers. This woman continues to demonstrates she knows a lot about nothing every time she opens her mouth.

  • crime fighter
    November 05, 2012 - 08:39

    past liberal governments made a complete joke out of our judicial system. they made a mockery of the youth justice act, watering down crime bills with the help of their ndp friends. they wasted over a billion on a useless gun registry. but the big mistake this hug-a-thug bunch made goes back to 1982 when then a liberal prime minister brought in that phoney document called: THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS & FREEDOMS, it gives criminals more rights then their victims.

  • taxpayer
    November 05, 2012 - 08:26

    liberals say they are learning from their mistakes, so are the voters for electing whats left of that hug-a-thug bunch. when are they going to learn and tell us when are they going to re-pay the taxpayer for the money gone missing from the adscam?

  • John Smith
    November 05, 2012 - 08:15

    Almost a million dollars in debt, and Dwight Ball as their could it get any worse?It must have been funny to have the interim federal leader, who is pro muskrat, talking to the interim provincila leader who is anti muskrat having a conversation about the million dollars in debt...LOL Hilarious...

  • John
    November 05, 2012 - 08:13

    If the party cant afford $32,000.00 a year, less than $3,000.00 a month, how would they be able to look after a provincial budget in the Billions of dollars. If this was anyone else, the loan would have been long recalled if they weren't even paying the interest. John Hogan says that the discussions have been ongoing for 3 years and that their lenders are close to fruition. Again, If this was anyone else, the loan would have been long recalled if they weren't even paying the interest. Another example of there being 2 sets of rules, one for the common John Q. Public and another for the "big and the famous."

  • Hass Ole
    November 05, 2012 - 08:13

    I don't think that it was a mistake that cost the Liberals, it was total annihilation cause by the fighting within.

  • Matthew
    November 05, 2012 - 07:57

    The provincial Liberals lost government 9 years ago and are still in decline. The time to take a good hard look at themselves was many years ago. Too little, too late.

  • roy
    November 05, 2012 - 07:09

    Ball wouldn't trust the Premier to run a lemonade stand when his own party can't pay the interest on their debt which is less than 1,000.000.00 and getting in terest charges of 32,000.00. What a laugh.

  • Dave
    November 05, 2012 - 06:54

    Ok let me see, the party faithful are going to keep a secret of how they are going to win the next election for three years. Not likely. The party needs to do a better job in communicating yet they use a footbal analogy, “I’m not going to tell the guys on the other side of the football field, here’s the passing play we have coming up,” he said"", to communicate this message. Last time I looked, there are no football teams in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Liberal party had better do a lot better at communicating to the people with concrete ideas and not just saying "We have a plan...We have a policy", as Mr. Alyward kept saying in the debates of the last election. They plan to be debt free by the next election. How? Again, a lack of a clear plan. But it has been a lack of a clear vision and leadership that has put the party in the position it is in today. Get a leader in place now. By not having a leader in place it looks as though the Liberals are only partly interested in governing. The term Interim Leader is like saying assistant coach, I am here to help but I do not want the responsibility of leading the team. The reason the NDP are polling higher than the Liberals is that they have had the same leader in place for the last seven years and people know who she is and what she stands for. The Liberals have had seven different leaders in one form or another since 2005. Time to get serious about leadership and not wait another full year.

    • John in Whitbourne
      November 07, 2012 - 07:42

      If they knew anything about football they wouldn't be quite as hapless as they are. For one thing they would know that the other team probably has a good idea about the plays that they have available in any situation. The game is not about surprising the other team, it is about execution and recognizing mistakes. Surprise is often just an instance of exploiting a mistake.

  • McLovin
    November 05, 2012 - 06:49

    The Liberal Party need to add one more area to their renewal strategy...COMMON SENSE. The rise in the stock of the liberal party in the province has absolutely NOTHING to do with their performance and EVERYTHING to do with the performance of the current PC Government. Absolutely nothing has changed within the Liberal Party since the Party Executive decided they wanted Roger Grimes as their leader instead of John Efford. I'm not saying that John was the man for the job but he was clearly the man that the PEOPLE wanted at the time and most have not and will not forget what went on at the convention. Until the Liberal Party realize and address this situation, they'll be sitting on the sidelines instead of calling the next passing play!!! Also, recycling old defeated politicians into your lineup is NOT renewal!!!

  • KD
    November 05, 2012 - 06:31

    Before the liberal party forms government in nl they have to make major changes I dont think thats possible with the current leader and his mhas I would never vote for them if the situation is status quo