Bill Barry claims that he’s not a politician — which is a little bit strange, considering he announced this week that he wants to be premier of the province.
© — Western Star file photo
Bill Barry announced this week he is seeking the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservative party.
Barry spoke to The Telegram after he formally launched his candidacy to replace Kathy Dunderdale as leader of the PC party.
“I wasn’t a politician yesterday, and I won’t be one tomorrow,” he said. “I think that the province needs some business leadership.
“I think that the province needs somebody like me — now, whether it’s me, the people will determine that — but the province needs somebody like me with a common sense view that grew up through the school of hard knocks.”
And if it sounds like Barry is styling himself like another business-and-common-sense leader from recent political memory — former premier Danny Williams — well, Barry doesn’t mind hearing that sort of comparison.
“Obviously there are certain commonalities that a lot of people are drawing between myself and Danny Williams,” he said.
And similar to Williams’ pitch back in 2003, Barry is promising capable governance and plenty of transparency.
“I’m offering myself, available to the people of the province of Newfoundland to be a good manager for them. And I believe in open government. I believe in accountability. I believe in transparency and I’m a straight shooter,” he said.
Ever since Dunderdale resigned earlier this month, behind the scenes Tories have been testing support and eyeing the party leadership.
At least four members of cabinet are said to be considering the job, along with half a dozen people who don’t currently hold a seat in the legislature.
But Barry is the first one to step forward and make it official.
He said he’s got 61 years of experience in the fishery — he’s 61-years-old, and he’s been immersed in the family fish processing business right from the beginning.
Speaking to The Telegram, he didn’t bring up fishery policy until he was asked about it, but he didn’t shy away either.
He said government can help the industry by partnering with people who want to invest in it — either plant operators or harvesters — but there’s no doubt that the size of the industry is shrinking and changing.
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“Government doesn’t have to size the industry right, it’s already happening. Some fishermen are leaving the industry, some other guys are buddying up or buying them out,” he said. “Ultimately, the fish operations that are going to exist in the future have to be more mechanized, with fewer, more technical people that are paid much better incomes.”
Also, the provincial government really needs to take care of the seal situation.
“We can’t be inundated with a massive predator herd of seven or eight million animals,” Barry said.
When it comes to the current state of the PC party, Barry acknowledged that things aren’t great; a majority of people disapprove of the way the government is running things, and when she resigned, Dunderdale was the least popular premier in the country.
Barry is promising to reverse the deeply unpopular Bill 29 amendments to the province’s access to information legislation, something that interim-premier Tom Marshall has already said he’s willing to look at.
Barry said it’s time for Tories to just plainly admit that they were wrong on Bill 29.
“A lot of this stuff is out of sync with the vast majority of Newfoundlanders,” he said. “It’s really time for the party to belly up to the bar and realize that their discussion around this issue was not right.”
But when it comes to Dunderdale specifically, Barry is reticent to criticize.
He said she did good work for the province.
“I really don’t want to start saying, ‘Well, Kathy Dunderdale should have done this or she shouldn’t have done that,’ ” he said. “She’s put 10 years of life in public service, and 99.999 per cent of those were yeoman’s service and valiant effort.”