Coleman walks away

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Progressive Conservatives hunting for new premier-designate

With one 20-minute news conference, Frank Coleman publicly declined the position of Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, announced his exit from provincial politics and left Newfoundlanders and Labradorians without any idea as to when they might get a vote on their future.

Frank Coleman walks away from the Holiday Inn on Portugal Cove Road Monday in St. John’s after announcing he is resigning from provincial politics.
— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

It was, Coleman said, a matter of family.

“A significant and challenging family matter has arisen over the last week that will see me unable to continue onto the (Progressive Conservative party) convention in July and, hence, unable to take the office of premier,” he said, seated before microphones and cameras at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s Monday afternoon.

“I know after this past week that I can no longer offer the undivided focus and energy that I feel would be required of me in this role. As such, I feel I would be doing a great disservice to both the PC party and the people of the province if I continued.”

Coleman refused to provide further details on his decision. He said only that it was a private, family matter, had nothing to do with any political dust-ups over his former company Humber Valley Paving and had emerged in the last five days.

“This is a personal, family matter. It’s my immediate family,” he said.

He apologized for where it leaves his political party.

As victor-by-default in the party’s leadership race — launched following the resignation of former premier Kathy Dunderdale on Jan. 22 — Coleman stood as premier-designate. His exit comes 19 days before the scheduled start of the party’s convention, on July 4, when he was to be proclaimed.

It comes more than four months after the date was first set for the convention and nearly five months since Dunderdale’s resignation.

Just down the road from where Coleman said his goodbyes to public life, there was the smell of freshly mowed grass and the rhythmic clanging of ongoing construction work on the exterior of Confederation Building. And yet there was no word as to when the PC party might see similar improvement to its curb appeal.

More significantly, Premier Tom Marshall could not say when the province might see its next premier or when an election might be called. Nor could he say when the PC party will lay out its vision for the future.

He said he has no intention of reversing his own plans to retire from political life, noting he was elected in 2003 and is a last remaining member of the original cabinet of premier Danny Williams, Dunderdale’s predecessor.

“I gave an undertaking to the caucus that I would stay and undertake a transition from premier Dunderdale to the new premier and I’ll honour that undertaking and I’ll carry on.

“The caucus has asked me to carry on until we complete the leadership process and we have a new premier,” Marshall said.

Informed of Coleman’s decision Sunday night, Marshall insisted the resulting situation — while “embarrassing” for the party — is not an issue for the current government.

“The government will carry on. That has not been affected at all. What has happened is the PC Party has been affected,” he said.

As for the future for members of a “transition team” brought in for Coleman, including new chief of staff Darrell Hynes, he said it will all be dealt with in the coming days, but did not interfere with the work of the office.

The PCs will have to come up with a new leader. That means a new leadership race and convention date.

A meeting of the political party executive has been scheduled for tonight to set out the schedule for relevant events to come.

Once the party has a new leader, that leader must call a provincial election within a year.

Liberal leader Dwight Ball spoke with The Telegram by phone from Lewisporte. He said he had heard something was brewing in relation to the PC leadership, but also that rumours were only settled with Coleman’s news conference.

“Even though we disagree on some things, one thing I will agree is that if you’ve got to choose between family and politics, family must come first. So I wish him well and wish him all the best as he works his way through those personal, family matters that he has to deal with,” he said.

“If there’s anything I would say in this, is we need to establish a clear timeline and we need to do it as quickly as possible,” he added, taking the position the province as a whole is affected by the state of the leadership, not just the PC Party.

“By the time we get to this, we’ll be six, seven months into (the process) and we still don’t know when the next general election is,” he said. “It’s kind of uncharted waters for us right now, but there’s only one way to get through it, is to put the clear timelines in place.”

NDP leader Lorraine Michael said she was taken aback by Coleman’s announcement.

“To say it’s a surprise will be putting it mildly. It certainly is something that I don’t think the people of the province could have imagined,” she said.

As for the future, “maybe the elected members of cabinet will show that they have the fortitude to put their names forward, but right now I think they have shown the people of the province they don’t care about the people,” she said.

Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Kent told The Telegram he is “very interested” in the leadership role vacated by Coleman, but has not made a final decision whether or not to put his name forward.

Meanwhile, John Ottenheimer, a former MHA and minister of Health, has indicated his intention to run.

Other declarations, one way or another, are expected to be made in the coming days.

Organizations: Holiday Inn, Humber Valley Paving, PC Party

Geographic location: Lewisporte

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Recent comments

  • Ben
    June 17, 2014 - 23:48

    Let's hope Coleman pays back all the money he spent belonging to the PC party. I knew this guy was not Premier material, same as Dwight is not Premier material! Dunderdale was as good as any of them...too bad she didn't 'fit in' with the old boys club.

  • Down
    June 17, 2014 - 14:10


  • Maxine
    June 17, 2014 - 11:47

    It is a measure of the desperation of the PC party that the even the useless, arrogant, snot-nose Kent believes he actually has a shot. This is the fellow who insisted up and down that the scouting organization had dutifully reported all allegations of sexual abuse to police. This is the guy the government put in charge of its Secrecy Act. Yes, this is definitely the guy we need to bring transparency and accountability back to government. NOT!

  • Charles
    June 17, 2014 - 11:25

    I can't believe some of the things , I' m reading here. when a person is down, do we get some kind of enjoyment from their pain? How can you be " Sure " he wasn't the man, that was going to bring our province into the 21 first century. I don't care about the color of a party, But of the person who has in their heart, the concern of the people. Now look at what's coming out of the wood work, In my opinion, PC's was on the right track, going outsides for a leader, but they fail only in one place, they should of let the people, chosen the new premier. If you think time were hard, just wait and see if the liberal become to power. then you'll be singing out of the other side of your mouths.

    • chas b
      June 17, 2014 - 14:27

      Right on!

  • Karen
    June 17, 2014 - 10:40

    Since when did PC stand for PERSONAL CELEBRITY? If we could just get on with politics in this province and stop sending the paparazzi out to defame the person who wants to take a stab at doing the job. Perhaps the next 'would be leader' could take the cloak of secrecy off of the Confederation Building and be the voice that Newfoundland deserves. People are not perfect, is there a place in politics for peoples personal laundry.... NO! Integrity is key. Lets get back to business of running the province.

  • HaNK
    June 17, 2014 - 09:36

    There are a number of people in the PC party that can take the role as leader and Premier of this province and become a good leader ! One being the member for Conception Bay TERRY FRENCH ! HE WONT WALK AWAY AND hide or quit ! HE would do what has to be done to run the Government and the province.

  • david
    June 17, 2014 - 08:50

    Great photo that captures his legacy perfectly....double-checking his pocket for that sweet refund.

  • Charlie
    June 17, 2014 - 08:30

    If only Danny could comeback for one more term to right the ship! The PC's are sunk and so is the governing future of our province. If not Danny and he is my ultimate first choice, then a fresh, smart vibrant young man with a proven record like a Joe Browne

    • W McLean
      June 17, 2014 - 14:22

      Danny is the proximate cause of his own party's misfortune.

  • What a joke
    June 17, 2014 - 07:52

    This farce is an unbelievable insult to the people of the province. The latest Newfie joke. Thanks Danny. And Steve Kent as a serious contender? Wow, how desperate times are. Really pathetic.

  • Herb Morrison
    June 17, 2014 - 07:50

    This is an eerily familiar scenario. Ah yes, I remember now. Former Permier Brian Tobin left Provincial Politics for so-called "Family reasons," specifically, to spend more time with his family, if my memory serves me correctly. Within the context of the Tobin situation, (farce might be a more accurate description), within a short period of time, Mr. Tobin was on the Board of Directors of at least two Corporations on the Mainland. Just how gullable do Politicians think people are?? Once bitten, twice shy.

    • david
      June 17, 2014 - 09:08

      Really? You think they're wrong in that assessment? Really?!

    • J. Clarke
      June 17, 2014 - 11:55

      Totally agree!

  • Leah
    June 17, 2014 - 06:31

    Oh please, not Steve Kent. I totally agree with Blair's comment.

  • W Bagg
    June 17, 2014 - 06:00

    Pretty bad , the guy who is Premier is trying to get rid of it, the guy who wanted to be Premier doesn't want to be Premier.

  • Randy
    June 17, 2014 - 05:58

    You can always count on Lorraine Michaels to dance a jig in nasty delight when other politicians bow out. If she ever gets a hint and leaves, let's see how she get's treated

  • Sam
    June 17, 2014 - 05:57

    Has anyone called Danny yet to see who's next in line to take over the throne? Kathy's gone, Coleman quite (smart move) and Marshall wants out ASAP. What a sorry lot and what a mess they've made of things and we're left holding the bag on the Labrador paving work. Could someone please tell McGrath, it's time he left. It's just like watching a soap opera. Stay tuned folks for the next rerun of the three stooges.

  • Scott R
    June 17, 2014 - 05:51

    Sorry to see you go, Mr Coleman. You had my vote. If the PC's are hoping to win the next election, Please take a little bit of advice, Call on the man , the liberal said no too. he'll will bring the party back to life. He understand the issue's, I met this man in my home town, back in June 2013, one thing I can tell you, he know what he talking about.

    • chas
      June 17, 2014 - 09:10

      Yes, Paul Antle would make a great leader.

  • Why
    June 17, 2014 - 05:41

    Mr Coleman, why did you walk away? Sir you should have stay , and given a good fight, Liberal s has nothing to offer the people, only one liner. ( Elects Me Then Find Out ), I feel sorry for the people of Humber Valley, If Dwight get in. then they will find out for thereselve , who own deer lake,

  • Blair
    June 17, 2014 - 04:45

    Please, I really hope I don't have to listen to much more of Steve Kent. He has been in a spin since he hasn't been on Kathy's apron strings. He has been around too long and he is now a major part of the PC problem of being unpopular.

  • Joe McGrath
    June 17, 2014 - 04:18

    His family was attacked, His honor was attacked and he was basically called a crook. His religious views and his religion were attacked. His honesty was attacked. The man was stripped of his dignity at every turn he made. He was mocked and jeered by the media especially the print media columniists. His life since February of this year must have been a living hell. Good on you Mr.Coleman for putting family first. They deserve to be always first. The PC party will get a new leader and in the next election the Liberal attack dogs and others will indeed be shackled and put down. Carry on folks as this is already old news.

    • Cry me a Bucket!
      June 17, 2014 - 07:24

      Frank Coleman should have know what it's like when you step into the political area. He also knew full well that the cooked up deal to get him off the hook in Labrador was not going to sit well with the media or the people of the province. He would have been much better of if he had not let himself be talked into taking the job in the beginning. I wish him well.

    • Agree
      June 17, 2014 - 15:15

      All Liberals prov & federal continually say they don't attack yet are like rabid dogs once they start barking.