Liberal Leader Dwight Ball says he doesn’t just plan on being ready for a fall election — he wants a fall election, and thinks voters deserve one.
This weekend’s Liberal convention in Gander will be a big part of the party’s efforts to build a turnkey campaign machine that can fight a general election just as soon as premier-designate Frank Coleman calls it.
“We’re still clearly focused on making sure the party is ready for this fall,” Ball said. “With an incoming premier that has not really been elected by anyone … the people of the province are looking forward to an election this fall. “
It’s no wonder Ball is eager. For the first time in recent memory the Liberal party is on a more stable footing than the governing PC party, and the mood among the Grits is all about getting ready for the next election and likely forming government after that.
The Liberals are leading in the polls, and for the first time in years, the party leadership isn’t in flux. On top of that, the party was able to hold a successful fundraiser in St. John’s earlier this spring where about 500 people showed up for a $500-a-plate dinner.
Meanwhile, the Tory leadership is in transition, and Coleman has been mired in controversies surrounding his business practices, and his views on abortion and government privatization.
John Allan, who will take over as provincial Liberal party president during the weekend, said money is a big part of the party’s mandate in the next year.
“My main focus is going to be the fundraising, making sure that all 48 districts are growing in the same direction,” he said. “We want to make sure that all 48 districts are ready to go, and that the party is on a strong financial footing, which it is.”
Money is a tricky topic for the Liberals. With stable leadership and a resilient lead in the polls, cash is coming more easily, but they remain nearly $800,000 in debt.
When he took over as interim leader of the party 2 1/2 years ago, Ball said settling the debt was a priority for him. Since then, none of it has been paid off.
But both Ball and Allan said they’re negotiating with lenders behind the scenes to make something happen.
The Liberal gathering will also be a major chance for party members to debate policy, and there are 29 policy resolutions on the agenda, covering everything from the commercial sale of moose meat to a study of a tunnel to Labrador.
One resolution that’s drawing a bit of attention is a proposal to lower the voting age in the province to 16 years old.
Ball was noncommittal about whether he thinks that’s a good idea, but pointed out that during the Liberal leadership race, supporters as young as 14 could vote.
“I think it’s going to be a very spirited debate, and we’ll see where the party decides to take this,” he said.
The Telegram will have coverage from the Liberal convention online at www.thetelegram.com on Saturday and throughout the weekend, as well as full coverage in Monday’s paper.