Kirby, Mitchelmore join rapidly growing official opposition

James McLeod
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Liberal Leader Dwight Ball repeatedly said that his party has an “open door policy” and it was on full display Tuesday as Ball welcomed two MHAs into the Liberal fold.
Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore have been sitting as independents in the House of Assembly ever since they were involved in orchestrating a messy caucus revolt last October in the NDP.

St. John’s North MHA Dale Kirby looks on as Liberal Leader Dwight Ball speaks at an event Tuesday morning. Kirby announced that he’s joining the Liberal party after several months sitting as an independent. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

But Ball said he believes that both of them can find a home within the Liberal party.

“Both Christopher and Dale have respect for the values of the Liberal party: treating our communities and our residents fairly; caring about health, education and protection of all the people in all parts of our province; being an accountable party that will act in the best interests of our people,” Ball said.

Of the 11 members of the Liberal caucus, four of them are floor-crossers — Tom Osborne and Paul Lane were both originally elected as Tories, and Kirby and Mitchelmore ran under the NDP banner.

But even though he seems willing to take politicians regardless of their political stripe, Ball said that the party still has a set of core principles.

“We’re not a zebra party, I can tell you that right now,” he said. “People are coming to the Liberal party, supporting the Liberal values as a matter of choice. It is still the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Ball has adamantly said that Kirby, Mitchelmore, Lane and every other aspiring Liberal candidate has to face an open nomination challenge before they run in the next election. Any of them could have to fight for their right to run for the Liberals.

The fact that Kirby and Lane, especially, are now part of the same political party could be awkward. The two men have traded verbal shots back and forth across the legislature in a way that sometimes seemed to get personal and heated.

Lane once described the New Democrats —including Kirby— by saying “there are no intelligent life forms” within the NDP.

On Tuesday, though, Lane shrugged that off by saying that it was all just part of the game.

“I’m looking forward to working with both Chris and Dale. I can tell you that some of the sparring that you see back and forth is simply just that — never personal with me. It’s never been personal with those guys either,” he said.

For Kirby’s part, he said that he could work with Lane.

“Paul and I are certainly not sworn enemies,” he said.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Tuesday’s announcement was the assortment of people in the crowd.

Several New Democrat candidates from the 2011 election were sitting there supporting Kirby.

“I’m here to support my friend Dale,” said Chris Picard, who rand for the NDP in St. John’s West back in 2011.

Geoff Gallant was also in the audience; he was party vice-president until last fall, when he quit in the wake of the caucus revolt.

Gallant also turned up a couple of weeks earlier at the Liberal announcement when Lane announced he was leaving the Tories and joining the Liberals.

At the time, Gallant claimed he wasn’t there for political reasons — just for the quesadillas at Smitty’s restaurant in Mount Pearl — but there were no quesadillas to be had at the United Church when Kirby made his announcement.

Gallant acknowledged after it was over that he’s taking a look at some different political options, even if he hasn’t formally quit the NDP yet.

“Ever since I left the vice-presidency of the NDP, one of the things I’ve really been enjoying is really looking at everything with a clear head and a clean slate and kind of a non-partisan eye,” he said. “I’m really listening to what Mr. Ball has been preaching; it’s really kind of an open, inclusive party.”

Mitchelmore held a similar event in his district on the Northern Peninsula, and spoke to reporters by speakerphone in St. John’s.

He said he’s been spending a lot of time talking with people in his district, and he’s convinced that the Liberals are the right fit for him.

“I worked very hard in my constituency. I’ve been on the ground talking with people, dealing with issues, as an independent, working very hard,” he said.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: NDP, Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, United Church

Geographic location: Geoff, Mount Pearl, Northern Peninsula

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Recent comments

  • Alex Easterbrook
    February 05, 2014 - 19:54

    Dear Newfoundlanders, In the U.S. we don't have a party as social democratic as the NDP. If we did and they left their party they would not be able to fit into the Republican or Democratic Party. Is there no difference in perspective in Newfoundland between the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP?

  • Gerry B.
    February 05, 2014 - 16:23

    As their theme song for the next Provincial Election, I wonder if Dwight Ball & the Liberals will use the Dolly Parton old favourite, "My Coat of Many Colours?" Certainly would be fitting.

  • Gerry.
    February 05, 2014 - 16:14

    As their theme song for the next Provincial Election, I wonder if Dwight Ball & the Liberals will use the Dolly Parton old favourite, "My Coat of Many Colours?" Certainly would be fitting.

  • Terry W
    February 05, 2014 - 11:56

    I have very little respect for politicians for the most part let alone those are voted in by their area voters and then jump ship because they don't like the captain. My question is did they go to those people who voted for them and ask there permission to switch parties and what their voters thought before they actually defected. My guess is that the gutless wonders who chose to write a letter than sit down a party meeting and speak to Ms Michael and express how they felt did the same thing went behind their constituents back!

  • Mr. Realistic
    February 05, 2014 - 08:55

    Siobhan Coady makes me sick. Every time I see her on television speaking, I could throw up in my own mouth. She never quits. Now she is trying to capitalize on the NDP's misfortune, thanks to Mitchelmore and Kirby. To see her on the news last night, hugging Dale Kirby, was sickening. Ms. Coady, do us all a favor and go home and save yourself the embarrassment of running and losing again.

  • Bert
    February 05, 2014 - 08:04

    People get elected for one or more reasons. 1. Vote for the party. 2. Vote for the person or 3. vote for the leader. When a party gets all but 2 or 3 of the seats it's very plain that it's for the party or the leader. Since the P.C.'s shot themselves in the feet we are now watching the Liberals perform Hari Kari.

  • Henriette Arsenault
    February 05, 2014 - 07:42

    The liberals will accept any garbage that goes their way in order to try and win the next election. They didn't learn a dam thing from their past stupidity! Being PM or P is not about a popularity contest, it's about who is best to help the province and the country!

  • Jay
    February 05, 2014 - 07:29

    Any politician who pretends there's an ideological difference between the parties is being less than honest with the voters. Politicians run for the party they think will get them elected. Once that party gets in trouble, some are more than willing to cut their leader's throat and go elsewhere. Rats don't only leave sinking ships, they board floating ones. If Dwight Ball is so willing to accept the throat cutters and forget the people who stuck with the party in the hard times, he will pay the price. In fact, |I think he's already paying the price. It's unfortunate that in a province of 500,000 people we spend so much time pitting one party against another, rather than working cooperatively. Maybe we should consider government without slates, along municipal lines. There are numerous large cities in Canada(more populated than this province) which are far more effective using this process.

  • For Sale
    February 05, 2014 - 07:28

    Everything is for sale under Dwight Ball's Liberals. All offers are accepted. They've already given up their honour and integrity without having to form a government.

  • Julie
    February 05, 2014 - 07:28

    Time to call for Ball resignation.. All this man is doing is causing in fighting into my party.

  • Linda
    February 05, 2014 - 07:12

    Look like we may end up with another useless government, and the leader of the pack is Mr Ball. Very wise man if you ask me.

  • Brett
    February 05, 2014 - 06:01

    This just shows that the liberals are about being professional politicians, not about leading or about having a particular set of beliefs. I think making a team out of the disgruntled and castoffs of other parties is a short term plan that hopefully won't get them elected. I don't want politicians who are elected because they pay lip service to a party. I want a party that is strong in its convictions. One that really wants to lead, not one that is looking to create the most jobs for its members to leech money from the population in additional salaries.

    • W Bagg
      February 05, 2014 - 08:06

      @Brett The n you'll never have a govt you are happy with. Remember the PC MHAs who got the stipend for meetings that didn't happen. It's not confined to one party but to the entire trough on the hill regardless of party.

    • Happily Retired
      February 05, 2014 - 19:35

      So you're suggesting that we just exchange Blue BS for Red BS. How can you have a party that's strong in its convictions, if you're recruiting back stabbers from other parties? We've had enough of professional politicians whose only goal is to get elected. That's why the province is in the shape it's in. I'm tired of those who pander to the electorate, making promises they have no intentions of keeping(PET Scan) in Corner Brook. He supports Muskrat Falls, but doesn't have the guts to come out and say it, and he's going to review Bill 29....Oh wow! It looks like Ball is already being coached about what to say.....nothing. As arrogant as Bill Barry may be,(and I'm not a supporter) we've learned more about him in a couple of days than we've learned about what Dwight Ball wants to do for the province.