It’s part of the new political process being initiated by the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, and its president calls it a true display of democracy.
That’s how Liberal Party president Judy Morrow is viewing the upcoming Liberal leadership debate in Gander Aug. 22 at the Joseph R. Smallwood Arts and Culture Centre.
“This is the first of a variety of public events we’re going to be holding throughout the province over the next couple of months as we move towards electing a new leader,” said Morrow. “It’s part of the process we started last year with our renewal process, where we had a group travel the province and tell us how they wanted our party and the province to move forward.”
Morrow said the message the Liberals got back was to be open, so this is what it’s doing.
Falling in line with a format similar to what the federal Liberal party did to elect Justin Trudeau as its leader in April, the provincial party is opening voting up to members and supporters who are registered by the end of September.
“This is a wide-open leadership election. ... It is democracy at it best. ... It’s the first time for this in provincial politics,” she said, noting voting will be done online and by telephone. “We’re very proud and have every expectation that it will be a very successful method and process in the selection of our new leader.”
She said the debate is an extension of this new line of thinking for the Liberal party, as it will bring all five candidates — Paul Antle, Dwight Ball, Cathy Bennett, Jim Bennett and Danny Dumaresque — together on one stage in a traditional debate format.
“There's going to be a moderator and a panel to ask questions, as well as time for one-on-one and three-way debate,” said Morrow, pointing out there will also be a public question period during the debate, which is being assisted by the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce and will be aired on Rogers Television.
Chamber executive director, Hazel Bishop, said the chamber came on board because of its experience in past political debates and forums, and it gives the people of the region an opportunity to hear what future political leaders have to say.
Morrow said the debate would focus on five topics, including Muskrat Falls, kindergarten to Grade 12 education, economic development involving resources and the fisheries sector, seniors’ issues and Liberal party issues.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for people to come out and hear all the candidates present their platform in one arena.”