Conservatives looking to rebuild and mend fences in N.L.

James McLeod
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Over the weekend, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Rona Ambrose posted a couple of pictures of her chatting and with the four Progressive Conservative party leaders across Atlantic Canada.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in Bay Roberts in October, 2015.

PC Leader Paul Davis’s back was to the camera, but by the look of it, he was smiling and nobody was fighting with anybody.

This, in and of itself, is a notable change in tone from a year ago, when Stephen Harper was prime minister and Davis was embroiled in a bitter fight with Ottawa over the fisheries provisions in the CETA free trade deal.

But after both federal and provincial Tories suffered ballot-box defeats last fall, Newfoundland and Labrador Conservatives are saying it’s time to mend fences.

In conversations with The Telegram, both federal and provincial Tories acknowledge how damaging the years of fighting have been.

A lot of that, conservative strategist and vice-chairman of Summa Strategies Tim Powers said, comes down to how the federal party was seen in Atlantic Canada.

“Let me put it simply this way: you can’t be a prick all of the time and not expect to get punched in the face,” Powers said. “Conservatives, generally, were seen fairly or unfairly as a bunch of friggin’ pricks, and people had enough of their prickish behaviour.”

Powers said a lot of that can be chalked up to the leader, and with Harper out of the picture, there’s a real chance to rebuild.

“Unfortunately for Stephen Harper, he was loathed in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Powers said. “That was a major issue. Any data that I saw, that we commissioned at Abacus, only reinforced the notion that anybody who wore a blue jersey in Newfoundland and Labrador would be weighted down by the disdain that the vast majority of the province had for Stephen Harper.”

Ambrose is serving as interim leader, and as the party prepares for a leadership election in 2017, there are signs that outreach in Newfoundland and Labrador is already underway.

“I’m very much looking forward to the leadership process as a whole,” said Devin Drover, former head of the MUN Campus Conservatives, and a key organizer for the federal party in Newfoundland. “I’m looking forward to many of the interested contenders arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador to meet with our membership, meet with our party’s grassroots here.”

Drover said he doesn’t believe the Conservatives need to change their message to make it more palatable in this province.

“Just knocking on doors of Newfoundlanders in the St. John’s area, for example, they share a lot of the same principles that we should be sharing as a party,” Drover said. “They believe in limited government. They don’t want a lot of red tape to start a business in the city, for example, or to re-licence their car or apply for a hunting licence.”

That was a sentiment shared by Conservative Senator David Wells.

“The Conservative philosophy is more about individual accountability and responsibility and, frankly, less government intrusion in people’s lives,” he said. “I don’t think the Conservative Party of Canada should change its message just to curry favour in some quarters.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Conservatives, Conservative Party of Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • Kev
    February 10, 2016 - 15:49

    People in St. John's believe in "limited government" only until the forces of "limited government" start chipping away at their civil-servant customer base. Townies were the loudest to protest about the loss of "federal presence" - never mind that they still have one of the largest levels of federal government employment in the country - and threw out the so-called "conservatives" provincially the second the provincial gravy train started to dry up.

    • What?
      February 11, 2016 - 11:52

      Next time I get to Mars, I'll drop by for a visit.

  • roy206
    February 10, 2016 - 12:34

    I see the NDP are still with us..ranting on, long after Harper is gone. If you read the comments...there are no good politicians.... The Harper years were very good if you compare our life to everyone else on the planet... Canadians don't move to other countries....Even Conrad Black and Marc Emery are back home.

    • Liam O'Brien
      February 10, 2016 - 14:29

      Whether or not there will be pluralism and different viable options for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians come next federal election will depend somewhat on whether or not our newsmedia is willing to hit the reset button, confront certain biases, and report fairly on all parties, even the Conservative Party of Canada. The supposed bogey man PM is no more. The new interim Conservative leader selected by the Conservative caucus is intelligent and progressive and has already left her mark in numerous ways. Our newsmedia market is very small and too often too insular. I hope that we will once again return to the reporting and commentary standards of the days of Ray Guy, Jim Brown and other Newfoundlanders. Not every smear about any party should be assumed true - verify using reputable sources. The content of one's arguments shouldn't be dismissed because of their political stripe - consider it whether it's a grit or a Tory or an NDPer saying it. And lets all grow up and stop being so vulgar and small in our politics . . .

    • Kev
      February 10, 2016 - 15:50

      Oh boo hoo, the media is still out to get you, are they, muffin?

    • Dolf
      February 11, 2016 - 15:13

      That 'new and progressive leader' was part and parcel of the Harper dictatorship and didn't open her yap while a minister at his dictatorial shenanigans. That part of your rant ruined whatever message it was you were endeavoring to impart.

    • Kev
      February 11, 2016 - 15:42

      Liam O'Brien, some words of advice from your CPC fellow Aaron Wudrick: "Pro-tip: stop blaming the media, or other people you disagree with. Work harder. Persuade better. It's on you, not them."

  • What?
    February 10, 2016 - 10:52

    Conservatives looking to rebuild and mend fences in N.L. This is just hilarious! All the Con losers trying to pretend anyone gives a crap what they think. Laughable. Bunch of morons don't have a clue between them. If Senator Wells had the slightest bit of class or clue, he would just shut up, keep his head down and collect his unearned pay like that other less than useless embarrassment, Fabian Manning. And it seems the Con's brown-noser Tim Powers has finally realized his party will be in the wilderness for many, many years to come so now must appear to be all upset with their behaviour. The same behaviour he shamelessly defended for years. They seem to believe they can mend fences now. The same fences that they've been building for the last decade. Good luck with that. Pathetic losers, each and every one.

  • SkepticalNewfoundlander
    February 10, 2016 - 10:51

    Since they're not in power they can go back to lying about what they would do if they were in power without their blatant hypocrisy being obvious to everyone. CPC want accountability? Anyone who makes that claim is lying through their teeth and they know it.

  • david
    February 10, 2016 - 10:05

    My advice is to forget it. It will get them nowhere, as there is not a more vindictive, petty, childish electorate on earth. These people would stick needles in their own eyes rather than see the economic reality that is NL. All delusions must end, and this one has already wasted the (would be) ambition and productivity of entire generations.

  • JOsh
    February 10, 2016 - 09:34

    We don't want THE CONS, we don't need em and they got what they deserved! They are refom-a-cons and no matter how you dress em up they are bad news for this country. Go away and stay there!

  • abby
    February 10, 2016 - 09:29

    They must be kidding.If Harper is still involved with that party,i don't think they stand a chance of'' you know what.'

  • Tom Rudd
    February 10, 2016 - 08:33

    The only problem is that Ms. Ambrose was mentored by Harper and her actions so far indicate she has learned all the crazy things Harper was doing and seems to think that is the best way going forward. She is continuing Harpers policy of partisan rhetoric and lies. We need someone who wants to help and make the country better. The Liberals are actually about limited government and minimal regulation...but enough regulation to make people safe.

  • Some nerve
    February 10, 2016 - 08:30

    Go away. Stay away. Amen

  • Political Watcher
    February 10, 2016 - 06:02

    Great start trying to rebuild in NL; meeting with Davis who was second only to Harper when it came to lying to all of us.