Mount Pearl South MHA Paul Lane’s decision to switch loyalties from the PC party to the Liberals sent the political world into overdrive, Monday.
Former PC health minister Paul Oram said with Premier Kathy Dunderdale still at the helm, it was only a matter of time before people started jumping ship. — Telegram file photo
The Liberals welcomed him with open arms at Smitty’s Restaurant in Mount Pearl, while members of the PC party mostly seemed to react with disbelief.
“If you’d have asked me on Sunday, I would have said, ‘No b’y, he’s as solid as anyone,’” said Tom Hedderson, parliamentary secretary to the premier. “It’s a shock.”
The last time an MHA left the Tory caucus, it was Tom Osborne, and he was subjected to the full force of the governing party’s vitriol.
But if the reaction to Osborne’s defection was, “Good riddance,” as Environment Minister Joan Shea put it, the reaction to Lane was more subdued.
“That’s a decision he made, and I guess he’ll have to live by,” Hedderson said. “It’s business as usual for us and it’s just unfortunate that one of our members decided this wasn’t the place for him, and he moved on.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent didn’t seem interested in taking any hard shots at Lane either.
“I’m as surprised and disappointed as anybody by Paul Lane’s announcement,” Kent said. “I was not aware that he was contemplating this move.”
Ministers Charlene Johnson, Clyde Jackman and Susan Sullivan all said the move was a surprise, too, but none of them really seemed interested in going for a vicious attack either.
One person who was on the attack was former PC health minister Paul Oram.
Oram said with Premier Kathy Dunderdale still at the helm, it was only a matter of time before people started jumping ship. He’s been calling for her to step aside since last fall when the party lost a critical byelection in Carbonear-Harbour Grace.
“I, for one, think that we still have time as a party to turn this around, but I think we need a new leader,” he said Monday.
“We’re going to have a very difficult time trying to win this next election with Kathy Dunderdale there. In fact, I don’t think we can, quite frankly.”
But back at Smitty’s, the Liberals were happy to have Lane on their team, even if he was once a fierce opponent.
“It’s like a hockey team. Trades happen,” MP Scott Andrews said. “That’s part of it.”
Adam Quirk, president of the Young Liberals, said things are getting so bad for the government that even the most ardent Conservatives want out.
“It’s a great show of how far the PC party has fallen and how much momentum the Liberal Party has,” he said.
Former Liberal MP Siobhan Coady said there’s room for just about anyone in the Liberal party.
“We are very fiscally responsible. We’re socially progressive. That is what the Liberal party is,” she said.
“So there are some Liberals that are a little more right-leaning, there are some members that are a little more left-leaning, but we all come together to be very centralist.”