Ball takes Liberal crown

James McLeod
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Calls on party to unite, organize and prepare for 2015 election

After nearly two years on the job, Dwight Ball gets to shed that pesky “interim” prefix and just call himself the Leader of the Liberal party, full stop.

After nearly two years on the job, Dwight Ball gets to shed that pesky “interim” prefix and just call himself the Leader of the Liberal party, full stop.

Ball won convincingly; he received the largest share of party members’ first-choice votes, and as the results for the ranked ballot system were tabulated, he beat out challengers Paul Antle and Cathy Bennett to win the whole thing.

Among observers and Liberal insiders, he was always seen as the favourite to win, but the crowd erupted nonetheless when party president Judy Morrow made the formal announcement Sunday afternoon.

“This leadership contest has made us stronger and more united than ever before,” Ball told the crowd of chanting, cheering Liberals. “Our victory this evening clearly shows that people do want a leader who is trusted, who is proven and reliable. Now, I assure you, that this is not something I take lightly.

“I will not let you down.”

The Liberal party used a new system to select its leader, with eligible voters casting ballots where members ranked their choices from one to five. The system was also weighted, so that each district was given an equal say — whether it had a thousand Liberals in it, or only a couple of hundred.

All of this seemed to push candidates towards a more positive campaign focused on party unity and shared goals.

Before the results were announced, candidates were seen chatting and mingling in the convention hall.

Former Premier Roger Grimes said he believes that the bitterly divisive 2001 Liberal leadership race — where he beat out rival John Efford in a race that tore the party apart — was in the back of party members’ minds during the current campaign.

“It did still loom large,” Grimes said. “Here, I think the board of the party were very wise in looking at this all-inclusive process that has a consensus leader.”

Ball’s speech, and the whole tone of the convention, emphasized unity, organization, and the need for the party to get down to the nitty gritty in preparing for the 2015 general election.

Ball had a few partisan jabs for Premier Kathy Dunderdale — he said she leads “a tired, arrogant government that has lost its way and forgotten who it works for” — but most of his rhetoric was about the population of the province at large, Liberal values, and the need for a vision for the future.

“The people of our province want change. It’s a sign that they no longer like the way that politics is being done by this current government,” he said. “While we have challenges, we also have the wherewithal and the confidence to meet those challenges.”

Overall the five candidates managed to sign up 38,006 members or party supporters — and that list of names could prove to be a powerful database of potential volunteers and loyalists for the party as it gets ready for the next general election.

Only around 60 per cent of those people actually bothered to cast ballots in the election, though. In the final tally, Ball got the largest share of the vote. Paul Antle came second. Cathy Bennett came third. Danny Dumaresque came fourth, and Jim Bennett got the smallest share of the vote.

All four failed candidates said they plan to run for the Liberal party in the 2015 election.

At the weekend convention, party treasurer Jeff Marshall revealed the party is still nearly $800,000 in debt.

When Ball took on the interim-leader job back in December of 2011, he said that paying down that debt was one of his top priorities. Nearly two years later, it hasn’t been paid down.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, he said that things have already been in the works behind the scenes, and something will be happen on that in the near future.

“We’ve had a plan in place and a process to help with that debt quite some time ago,” he said. “Of course, the financing institutions wanted to know who the next leader would be. We’ll go back there now and get that process started.”

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Recent comments

  • Ryan
    November 18, 2013 - 09:06

    I would like to see how much money each of them spent on political campaigning, espically Cathy Bennett. Just for the fact that her company "Bennett family restruarents" aka McDonald's can only manage to pay their staff 10.75 an hour...

  • RE District by District Results
    November 18, 2013 - 08:30

    The ballot by ballot district results can be found at the following link. ball did better in many Avalon region seats than Antle or Bennett including some St. John's seats. here's the link to the results:

    • Hmmm
      November 18, 2013 - 10:45

      Looks like Antle did better in the eastern region and Ball did better in the west and Labrador. Poor Dumaresque was never in it.

  • East Ender
    November 18, 2013 - 07:53

    All I can say is; Thank God Antle didn't win. He's just another successful rich local businessman on a power trip. He decided to run for the leadership on the last day because I believe he actually thought he could be the next premier of NL. Lucky for us the people were smart enough not to allow this to come to fruition. The guy has no experience in politics. He may be a smart business guy but I really don't believe he is Premier material. I predict he will run in the 2015 election in either St. John's East to try and take advantage of George Murphy's recent bad press or Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi (his parents old neighborhood) to try dethrone Lorraine Michael. I know he ran before in St. John's East and lost. Not sure what the outcome will be in 2015 but I do know he will have his work cut out for him. Best of luck to you Mr. Antle. You will need it. Cheers..!!

    • Observer
      November 18, 2013 - 10:49

      Couldn't agree more about Paul Antle. He comes across as unlike able, full of himself, absolutely no charisma. Thinks he's the next Danny Williams. Sorry, Paul, but you're no Danny and you never will be. Try a little humility next time. Do the REAL work necessary for the job.

  • Too Funny
    November 18, 2013 - 07:45

    “The people of our province want change." Uh huh. So they decide not to select a new leader, hold a private leadership contest to avoid any embarrassment, and have a non-democratic election. Perhaps he should have finished that sentence up with "but just not yet."

  • Good Points
    November 18, 2013 - 06:33

    Good points all around. The party debt was not very well addressed while ball was interim leader so it remains to be seen how much money he can raise as official leader. That being said, if the polls hold for the Liberals it should be easier to attract money as everybody jumps on a winner's bandwagon. The really interesting bit would have been the district by district breakdowns which have yet to be released. The thinking amongst the party faithful was Ball had a very good chance because the Cathy Bennett-Siobhan Coady group would split the Avalon region support with the George Fury-Paul Antle group and Ball took rural NL. Too bad the district breakdown was not released.