The reluctant premier

Cory Hurley
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Tom Marshall preparing for a normal life

Premier was never a title that was desired by Tom Marshall.
Serving the people of the province in a senior cabinet role, yes. Striving to better life for the people of the Corner Brook area, definitely

Tom Marshall in his constituency office in Corner Brook Saturday. — Photo by Cory Hurley/The Western Star

As he counts down the days to his retirement from public life — once again — he is now grateful to have gotten the opportunity to be the province’s top man.

Sitting down with the premier, in his former office in the Sir Richard Squires Building in Corner Brook, it is easy to see he cares about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The fourth floor constituency office still has his name on the door even after making the move to the 10th floor premier’s office with the interim tag in January.

He talked about his almost 11 years in politics. It was a road that began with the building of the Danny Williams empire, which ruled the province with great popularity. Marshall did not hide his emotion as he spoke. He could be described as Williams’ right-hand man — the representative of Humber East to Williams’ Humber West — serving critical portfolios such as Justice and Finance. Those are the roles he sought when the timing was finally right in his life for a run at public service.

However, the other 500,000 people in the province will just have to forgive him, because his heart really beats for the people of his hometown Corner Brook and the surrounding area.

Conversations with Marshall over the years, no matter the topic, often found direction to issues pertaining to western Newfoundland’s city. It was no different Saturday as the former lawyer talked about himself, his reflections on public life and what the future might hold for him and the province.

Marshall said it may have been a Grade 7 civics course that began his interest in public life. Maybe it was the Newfoundland history teachings in Grade 8. He knows Bill Turner’s political science offering gained him great insight into public adminstration after he left Herdman Collegiate to pay the $50 to do first-year university courses at the former Regina High School.

He said he went to Regina to play basketball “the way it was meant to be played” under Brother Duffy. Nonetheless, the eventual lawyer had his eye on public service.

Of course, his greatest influence in politics was his father Mr. Jack Marshall. He represented the federal district of Humber-St. George’s-St. Barbe in the House of Commons from 1968-1978.

In 2004, on his death bed, Marshall said his father shook his finger at him and said, “Look after the poor people.” He spent the last 11 years trying to do that and said he thinks his father would be proud.

“I think he would have been tickled pink,” Marshall said.

His father didn’t get to serve in power, Marshall pointed out. He got to advocate on behalf of the people — widely recognized for his work with veterans —but Jack Marshall did not get to make the decisions that mattered most.

His son got to do that. In the end, Tom Marshall got to do it at the highest level. Even if he didn’t seek it out, the premiership found him.

How did he treat the appointment? He would fulfil his duty and not do so lightly.

“I had a responsibility to the people of the province,” he said.

Marshall pointed out he still has six weeks until the Progressive Conservation Leadership convention will decide the next premier.

“I have not stopped. We have not stopped,” he said, referring to cabinet. “I will not stop. You will see in the weeks to come. There’s a lot coming.”

He said being premier is a different position, even from the senior cabinet positions. Just how seriously he took it can be explained by his story that he stayed up all hours through the night as premier when he knew there was a search on for a missing Labrador man.

“As premier, you kind of feel like it is your people out there,” he said.

The man was found and Marshall did get to sleep after he received word.

He said he has enjoyed his stint as premier and is grateful for the opportunity. He admits it was helpful knowing there was an end in sight, even if that day was continually delayed.

He was attending the funeral of former federal finance minister John Flaherty when he was informed Bill Barry had dropped out of the leadership race. Marshall said he thought he would be able to step aside that day. He said he wasn’t necessarily waiting at the door with his bags packed waiting for the opportunity to leave public life. However, he points out this four-year term was his response to being asked to stay a while longer.

He was again staying around, this time at the request of then premier-delegate Frank Coleman, who was expected to take over the leadership July 5. Marshall’s farewell tour was underway.

In June, Coleman withdrew as leader and Marshall’s reign continued.

Paul Davis, Steve Kent or John Ottenheimer will assume the role as leader after the Sept. 13 election at the party convention.

Depending on what the leader, and future premier asks of him, Marshall will then step down as premier.

“It’s on the weekend, so it could be right then ... a day after ... a week after,” Marshall said. “I’m not sure. It will be whatever the next leader wants or asks.”

As with his seat in the House,” Marshall said he will resign when the new premier chooses to call a byelection.

Marshall said he’s enjoyed being premier, but it was never enough to make him reconsider his future. Despite being told by insiders he would likely win the leadership race, he said his time has passed. And, he is quite content with his decision to retire.

“It was a family decision,” he said. “Maybe, if it was 10 years earlier, but the timing has to be right.”

As he travels across the province as premier, news conferences and events are often filled with accolades for him. He remains humbled and seems genuine in his surprise when people take the time to single him out. The gratitude people show him does hit home.

“It is nice,” Marshall said. “You always want to do a good job.”

Marshall said he continually gets asked to stay and serve another four years, but he’s already done that once. So it’s a request he is able to turn down.

“It’s kind that people feel that way,” he said. “It is time for somebody new ... it is not my time anymore.”

It’s time to return to Corner Brook and be with his wife Lynn full-time, he said

“I’m coming home,” he said.

Marshall has a lot he wants to do in retirement, but it’s a return to “normal life” that he seeks. Waiting for him is the same house and the same car he had before he entered politics.

He said he wants to lose the weight he has gained. He wants to get back to the gym, something he said he used to do three times a week before politics and and he wants to begin walking at the Pepsi Centre. He wants to get back into golfing and spend time with his old friends.

In his home, he is not premier. He laughed when he said, as premier, he can always ask people to get him information on this or data on that. At home, he said, Lynn just tells him to “get it yourself.”

That’s what Marshall desires. A normal life.



Organizations: Regina High School, House of Commons, Pepsi Centre

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, Humber East Humber West

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Recent comments

  • Scott
    August 05, 2014 - 07:08

    Just because someone past you over a set of keys, Its don't make you the landlord. Because if it did, you'll stick around, lets the people decides... Wouldn't you agree to that Thomas?

  • Laughable
    August 04, 2014 - 17:00

    Ted, explain to the " Citizens " how would you feel sitting in a waiting with your " Spouse " in pain, for hours to see a Doctor, In walk a man who suppose to be working for the taxpayers. Less then five minutes, He get to see the Doctor. Don't you think there something wrong with that picture? Or don't you think, first come is first serve? Tom should of waited like the rest of us.

    • Ted
      August 05, 2014 - 10:48

      I think it's sad that you would try to put this out there with no context and just assume he had asked for preferential treatment. Shame on you sir or madame. Leave the mud-slinging to the politicians. No wonder people stay away from politics with comments like yours.

  • Laughable
    August 04, 2014 - 12:12

    Sorry I have no respect for Tom Marshall. I can't forgive him, walking into that hospital that night, bypassing everyone in that waiting room, who was there for hours waiting to see a Doctor. List go on,

    • Ted
      August 04, 2014 - 13:30

      What a sad accusation from annonymous "Laughable". Pretty low comment to make on here.

  • Tony Rockel
    August 04, 2014 - 11:04

    I'm sorry, but sticking this province with the highest electricity prices in North America and saddling it with what will turn out to be the highest per capita public debt in Canada is hardly the way to "look after the poor".

    • Joe Ryan
      August 04, 2014 - 11:57

      That okay, we forgive you.

  • Don Jackman
    August 04, 2014 - 10:47

    I have met this man on a professional basis when he was Justice Minister. A good man. Yopu only have to chat with him for a few minutes to learn this. Enjoy your retirement.

  • SM
    August 04, 2014 - 10:09

    Great article. Marshall is a great man and politician. The PC party attracts people like Marshall.

  • JRM
    August 04, 2014 - 09:28

    Typos: Federal Finance Minister "John" Flaherty Progressive "Conservation" Leadership convention "premier-delegate" Frank Coleman

  • Really Now
    August 04, 2014 - 09:12

    Really? Is this what you want the people to believe? One of the most arrogant governments led by a bunch of individuals who can't see what the majority of this province sees - a sinking ship. I wish Mr. Marshall well in his retirement but he's far from a reluctant premier. He and Danny orchestrated Coleman's rise to the top, fast forward and $19 million dollar forgiven for a contract not completed, $8 billion in Muskrat Falls & an infrastructure they say is being rebuilt yet we have 90% of the bridges rated as "poor", a Corner Brook hospital that's been promised for 7 years & not build ... reluctant - yep. Reluctant to do what has to be done to get this province on track and that is resign or call an election.

  • Huh
    August 04, 2014 - 09:02

    Who is John Flaherty?