Cathy Bennett makes it official

James McLeod
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Businesswoman steps into the ring for Newfoundland Liberal leader

St. John’s businesswoman Cathy Bennett formally launches her Liberal leadership campaign in St. John’s Wednesday. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

St. John’s businesswoman Cathy Bennett made her bid for the Liberal leadership official Wednesday, at a finely-tuned campaign launch in St. John’s.

With nearly 100 people in the room watching, Bennett declared she’s got a fire in her belly and she wants to lead the province.

“The Liberal party is going to make a comeback in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is going to make a comeback with the help of all of you,” she said. “I’m committed to getting it done right. I’m committed to striking a balance of fiscal prudence with social sensitivity. That is what I believe in. That is why I’m Liberal.”

But right out of the gate, she’s facing questions about her commitment to the party. When fellow candidate Danny Dumaresque declared his intention to run on Tuesday he said, “I am a Liberal by conviction, not by opportunity.” That seemed to be a direct shot at Bennett.

She is probably best known for owning a string of McDonald’s fast food restaurants and other businesses. She was also instrumental in establishing Ronald McDonald House in St. John’s — an organization that supports sick children and their families.

Bennett was appointed by the Tory government as a board member of Nalcor in 2007, and in that position, she was intimately involved in the planning and development of the Muskrat Falls project. The Liberal Party, meanwhile, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the current plan to develop Muskrat Falls.


“I believe the business case works. We now must manage the project in a world-class way, on time, on budget, and ensure that the business case is fully realized,” Bennett said in her speech. “The best managers for the future of our province — which now includes Muskrat Falls — is the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Speaking to reporters, she said she believes as leader she could head up a caucus in the House of Assembly that has been aggressively critical of the $7.7-billion hydroelectric development.

“If I was going into politics expecting that every single person was going to be aligned with me, I probably picked the wrong profession,” she said. “The Liberal caucus did their job in the House of Assembly by asking questions.”

Other key planks in Bennett’s case for leadership include immigration and all-day kindergarten. She said the government needs to do more to encourage population growth and maximize the benefits of the current natural resources boom.

“The people of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve to benefit from the very things that are making our province so successful. People deserve good jobs, quality health care, healthy communities, and education that is about the growth of our children and grandchildren,” she said. “In order to deliver these, we need to increase the revenues of the province and we need to expand our tax base, and we need to do that by ensuring our resources are responsibly developed.”

Bennett also faced tough questions on donations she’s made to the PC Party in recent years; according to an analysis of campaign donation records by the CBC, she’s given $6,400 to the PC Party since 2004 compared to $500 to the provincial Liberals.

Bennett said she’s given money to anybody who’s asked her for it, and she also pointed to a fundraiser she personally organized for former Liberal MP Siobhan Coady.

“I think that it’s important for business leaders and people in the community to support democracy, and I’m not going to apologize for making contributions to a variety of parties when I’ve been asked,” she said. “When I’ve been asked, I have contributed.”

Coady was at Wednesday’s launch, and said she’s excited to see her friend enter the race.

“She’s been involved in a lot of community activity. She’s shown her strength, her intelligence, her capability in her community, and I think having her as part of the Liberal leadership contest is a great thing,” Coady said.

As for the nagging questions about Bennett’s political history, Coady said in the coming months, she’ll prove who she supports.

“We’re not exclusive; we are big thinkers and we want to hear alternate viewpoints,” Coady said. “Now it’s her job over the next five months to convince Liberals that she’s the right person to lead this party.”

At this point, current MHA Jim Bennett and former MHA Danny Dumaresque have already formally launched their campaigns. Interim leader Dwight Ball has said for more than a year that he plans to run, and he is expected to launch his campaign later this week.

Nominations for Liberal leader close Friday. Members and party supporters vote in November.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Liberal Party, Ronald McDonald House, CBC PC Party

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Muskrat Falls, November.jmcleod

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Recent comments

  • Anna
    July 04, 2013 - 13:41

    I'm not happy about the all day kindergarten, has anyone read what it cost the Province of Ontario and the studies are showing it does not improve knowledge for children but acts as an all day care centre for parents. With the huge overruns Muskrat Falls is going to cost taxpayers and now this, where is the money coming from - the immigrants she is going to encourage to live here?

  • The Knives Are Sharp in Liberal Politics
    July 04, 2013 - 09:20

    Cathy Bennett has no Liberal caucus support. Provincial Liberals gave up on Siobhan Coady years ago. These 2 facts added together are additional hurdles I doubt Bennett can overcome. It will take a lot more than the has-been Coady and the St. John's Board of Trade to win the leadership.

  • Kevin
    July 04, 2013 - 08:55

    Siobhan Coady. Ugh. Another fake. Will she be running provincially this time round? Will she win? lol

  • saelcove
    July 04, 2013 - 08:51

    So will everyone have to work for minimum wage plus the woman do not know if she is fiberal or con

  • david
    July 04, 2013 - 08:34

    Her blind support for Muskrat Falls (as blind as everyone else's, given that no data or contracts or agreements or forecasts have ever been made available to anyone outside government) is a great insight into her immense "business" acumen.

    July 04, 2013 - 07:54

    She has a fire in her belly? Funny choice of words considering she is the McDonalds Queen, and is resposible for giving the everyone else a fire in their belly...and other areas..... Zing! Seriously though...shameless power grab...

  • david
    July 04, 2013 - 07:47

    Well, I guess it's political progress of some kind....we've at least gone from electing school teachers as premiers to at people with some degree of exposure to the real world. But these first few "Titans of Commerce" are pretty thin soup. Danny was one of a dozen or so people in the province who stumbled upon cable TV company ownership, and simply rode that "golden goose on auto-pilot" to great riches by being bought out by another, bigger, more ambitious company...."Way to be!" realty is the perfect compliment for that one. Now, Ms. Bennett is being touted as yet another "Newfoundland business giant". Her entrepreneurial gamble? Buying McDonalds restaurants. Automated, turnkey businesses that cost as much as they do to purchase simply because of their guarantee of success. The most commerce-challenged people on Earth can become McDonalds millionaires...just keep the place clean, and follow the manual from head office. Seriously, this is hardly the entire substance of a worthwhile resume of someone running for high office. Well, it isn't anywhere else in Canada at least. In Newfoundland, it's awe-inspiring.

    • Whiny Boy
      July 04, 2013 - 08:57

      Losers are always envious of successful people.

    • david
      July 04, 2013 - 11:30

      Yes, that's often true. Anything to add related to the topic, or does your post simply serve as proof of its 'point'?

  • Mark
    July 04, 2013 - 07:43

    An endorsement by Siobhan Coady will cost Cathy Bennett votes, not gain them. Coady was voted out of office after 2 years by many thousands of votes.

  • Steve
    July 04, 2013 - 07:31

    Dwight Ball and Lorraine Michael have both promised to repeal Bill 29 if either of them becomes premier. What about Cathy Bennett?