Premier-designate Frank Coleman says he wants to run a premier’s office with fewer people, and he’s starting that already — six weeks before he becomes premier.
Without any formal announcement, big changes were made in the premier’s office late Friday afternoon, with a cadre of staffers losing their jobs.
Darrell Hynes, who was one of Coleman’s chief leadership campaign organizers, will become the interim-chief of staff in Confederation Building, as the political staffers get ready for Coleman to be sworn in in July.
According to budget documents, the premier’s office has a staff of 21 people, but with three vacant positions and five people who were let go and not yet replaced, Coleman said he expects to get by with less.
“It would be my hope that we’ll have a leaner premier’s office going forward,” he said.
Some of the vacant positions will be filled in the coming weeks, he said, but broadly speaking he wants to make do with less.
Tom Marshall is still the premier until some time after the weekend of July 5, when members of the PC Party will formally endorse Coleman’s leadership at a convention in St. John’s.
Opposition party leaders were scratching their heads at the changes, though.
“Clearly, right now the question I would ask is, who’s actually running the province? Is it Tom Marshall, the current premier, or an unelected incoming premier Frank Coleman?” Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said. “This is definitely unusual.”
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael was similarly quizzical.
“I’m shocked. Mr. Marshall is the premier,” she said. “Where are the efforts going? Where is the energy going? Is it going towards running this government, or is it going towards preparing for Mr. Coleman?”
What this means is that for the next several weeks, the ranks of the top political staff will be in flux, and some of the positions may be empty.
But Coleman said he’s convinced it will be fine.
“I don’t think that it’s a recipe for chaos,” he said. “We just felt that, leading up to this period now, that it was a good time to make moves and kind of have some people in place and understand the files and be fully briefed going forward, post-July 5.”