After more than a year of playing coy, businessman Dean MacDonald poured cold water on speculation about a possible run for leadership of the Liberal Party.
As recently as Tuesday, MacDonald was being billed as a potential “saviour of the Liberal Party” by VOCM News, but in a speech to the Conception Bay South Chamber of Commerce, he said business and family commitments were getting in the way.
“They say timing is everything; sadly, this time is not mine,” MacDonald said.
“While I will continue to fight for the best interests of this province, it is my intention to do so as a private citizen, not a politician.”
In the wake of the October 2011 provincial election, MacDonald started giving speeches with a decided political flavour to them.
He has advocated for the government to take a more long-term approach to public policy, and get away from the year-to-year and election-to-election cycles.
In speeches from the past year, MacDonald has called for the government to be more fiscally prudent, and stop running budget deficits.
In the past year he has also been heavily involved in the Liberal Party’s “renewal tour.” MacDonald along with former politicians Siobhan Coady and Kevin Aylward toured the province soliciting ideas from grassroots party membership about how to revitalize the organization and make the Liberals more electable.
MacDonald told reporters Wednesday that he thinks people have been too tied up in the leadership question.
“One of the things that’s been unfortunate about this whole process is that it’s been focused on leadership when the reality is it’s not about leadership. It’s actually about a platform. It’s about a strategy for this province,” he said. “I think our party has a good strategy to move forward, and I think we have a party in power that doesn’t.”
With MacDonald — one of the presumed frontrunners — out of the way, the leadership landscape is much more open.
Interim Leader Dwight Ball has said he plans on running for the job. Coady has said she won’t rule it out, and Liberal MP Gerry Byrne has said he’s thinking about it.
Liberal MP Scott Andrews was in the audience Wednesday for MacDonald’s speech. He said it’s disappointing, but with the final vote for the provincial leadership a year away, it’ll give other candidates plenty of time to gauge the lay of the land.
“He would have brought a lot to a leadership race, but he still brings a lot to the Liberal party,” Andrews said. “And he’s going to continue that involvement with the Liberal party, and whomever the leader is when the time comes. At least they can lean on someone like Dean MacDonald to give good advice.”
The Liberals are still drawing up the final rules for next November’s leadership vote.
Currently, both the provincial party and its federal cousins do not have permanent leaders.
But Andrews said that’s actually been a refreshing change of pace.
“We’ve gone through a lot of leadership politics over the past 10 years and it’s been divisive,” he said. “It’s been nice to have a break.”