PC party sets firm date for convention of July 4-5
On July 5, the province will know who its next premier will be and it’s safe to say that it won’t be St. John’s businessman Charlie Oliver.
Two weeks after Kathy Dunderdale announced her resignation as premier of the province, the leadership race to replace her is starting to take shape.
Oliver was thinking about it, but he’s out; meanwhile, Sen. Fabian Manning is saying that he’s seriously thinking about it.
Reached by phone from Ottawa, Manning said he’s gauging support, and watching as the race firms up before he makes a final decision.
“Who else is running is a major part of my thought process. And, you know, the leadership campaign is one portion of this process and then the impending election is another part,” Manning said.
“It’s a big decision, you know. I won’t camouflage it in any way.
“But it’s something that certainly I have an interest in, and certainly I’ve been very pleased, to be honest with you, with the calls I have received and the offers of support — both human support and financial support.”
The leadership convention will take place during the weekend of July 4-5 at the St. John’s Convention Centre.
It will be a delegated convention, but most of the other rules around the race haven’t been firmed up yet. Many of the prominent potential candidates seem to be keeping their powder dry until they have a better sense of who’s in and who’s out.
Within caucus, ministers Darin King, Steve Kent, Keith Hutchings and Derrick Dalley are said to be considering their options.
Minister Paul Davis has publicly backed out.
Oliver issued a news release mid-morning on Wednesday to say he won’t run.
A day earlier, Ottawa lobbyist and occasional “Open Line” radio host Tim Powers said he isn’t running either.
Former Tory natural resources minister Shawn Skinner is rumoured to be interested in the job. Political watchers have also mentioned former ministers Paul Oram and John Ottenheimer as possibilities.
As Manning ponders his candidacy, part of the consideration has to be his complicated relationship with the PC party.
He was thrown out of caucus when he ran afoul of then premier Danny Williams; then, a few years later, he was the main target of Williams’ Anything But Conservative (ABC) campaign when he ran for re-election in the federal seat of Avalon.
“I was point-man for sure. No doubt about that,” Manning said with a laugh.
“I’ve learned some valuable lessons; I’ve got some political scars that no one else would ever, ever have.”
But through it all, Manning said he’s never been anything but a Progressive Conservative.
“I’m not a johnny-come-lately to the Tory party of Newfoundland and Labrador. I mean, I was born a Tory,” he said.
“Whether right, wrong or indifferent, I sat as an independent — because I didn’t have a whole lot of choice at that time.”
Manning has been appointed to the Senate twice by Prime Minister Stephen Harper — the first time in 2008, then he resigned in order to try to win back his seat in the House of Commons in the 2011 election. After he lost in 2011, he was re-appointed to the Senate.
It’s unclear if he’d resign his Senate seat again if he decides to go after the provincial PC party leadership.
“I don’t even know what the process is in that regard,” he said.
As for his past with the party, Manning said that there’s been a lot of change within the PC caucus since he was last a member of the House of Assembly.
“I look at the caucus of today that’s in Newfoundland versus when I left there — I’ll put it to you that way — eight years ago,” he said. “Twenty-four of the 34 caucus members were not there when I was there. There’s only 10 caucus members that sit in today’s caucus that were members of caucus when I was in caucus.”
Oliver, meanwhile, said he’ll be putting his efforts into setting up a think-tank to look at policy problems facing the province.
He said he wants to bring people together to look at education, health care and especially the issues facing the province’s pension plans.
“They’re policies for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that we need to have researched and looked at without the emotion of a political bias,” he said.
Oliver said he doesn’t know who else will end up getting into the race, but so far he likes what he sees from Bill Barry, the one candidate who has formally announced that he’s running.
“(The PC party) needs to be re-energized. Danny did a phenomenal job. He was just full of that piss and vinegar and that drive that we needed. Then we ended up with a process in between — and God love Kathy, she did the best she could — but a different personality, a different type and a different skill set,” Oliver said.
“Bill Barry has got all the energy, all the tenacity and all the giddy-up that this province needs.”