Move fast, but tread carefully

Patrick Butler
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Call it a colossal screw-up for the PCs. When Frank Coleman stepped out of the PC leadership race last Monday, it was a monumental embarrassment for the party.
With Coleman gone, the PCs suffer a further blow to their brand, already in disarray following a lacklustre leadership contest between political novices.

Now, with no one left on the ballot for PC leader, it’s back to Square 1.

The convention will have to be pushed back and the leadership question left unsolved for a couple more months.

Let the frenzied recovery mode begin.

As for whoever ends up eventually winning the party leadership, the road to the premier’s office will be one riddled with questions on why they didn’t enter the race until the second time around.

Why now and not before? Were they bullied out of the leadership contest’s first instalment? Were they afraid to put their name forward? What’s changed?

For Tom Marshall, who thought retirement and relaxation were just around the corner, Coleman’s departure means the interim premier has to hang on another while until a new leader can be sworn in. Marshall wants out, but it’s turning out to be a heck of a lot more complicated than expected.

The premier’s office has also suffered from the Coleman chaos. Its staff was recently gutted to make way for Coleman’s transition team — a move criticized as a purge of the Dunderdale faithful — but now, with no Coleman and no need for his transition crew, the government must ponder an about-face on its recent hires and fires.

Coleman, for his part, will remain as nebulous and ill-defined as ever, right down to the reason for his departure. Blaming pressing family reasons is an unsatisfying excuse for the public, given its impenetrable vagueness, and as Coleman’s companies’ previous business dealings with the provincial government continue to face public scrutiny, the announcement will remain, for the province’s political cynics at heart, a readily exploited protection mechanism.

No matter how you slice this one, things don’t look good for the Tories. Thanks to Coleman’s surprise exit, the interim premier, the premier’s office, the PC party and the future PC leader all have awkwardness ahead of them.

The reboot Coleman’s decision gives the PC party could be considered a blessing in disguise given the would-be leader’s low profile, the leadership race’s original slate of candidates and the series of slip-ups the party has endured throughout its first run at a leadership contest.

But overcoming the past few months’ successive gaffes may prove difficult to achieve.

A new leadership contest could also draw out Danny Williams again, another mixed blessing considering the former premier’s celebrity status and heavyweight political muscle. Williams reliably attracts a media presence, but his opposition to former leadership hopeful Bill Barry’s candidacy was one of the early factors to significantly hurt the Corner Brook businessman’s chances of winning the PC crown, eventually leading to his withdrawal from the race.

Williams’ meddling in another leadership contest, especially should there again be only a small number of candidates, could have similar consequences for stifling the healthy competition and public attention leadership races target.

All things considered, climbing out of the hole dug by Coleman’s departure may not be impossible for the PC party, but doing so could be like walking through a minefield.

The PCs have a lot of baggage entering into a new race.

With precious time and political capital wasted, there’s a lot riding on the next few months and a lot of political manoeuvring to engineer.

They’d better move fast, but they’d better tread carefully.

Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is a second-year journalism student at Carleton University. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Carleton University

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Van-Dog Burs
    June 29, 2014 - 06:13

    Great Article Pat, keeps the boring days at the``office`` less boring!

  • Reader of news
    June 24, 2014 - 11:23

    Over the last few days I have read every news release, newspaper article and listened to the radio and TV articles regarding this government that I could find. Thinking there could be someone else at fault for screwing up the PC party and this province other than the PCs. But it is not the case. Some of the MHAs have played more of a part than others but it has been all their own doing right from the start and now with an election looming they are still shooting themselves in the foot. Put aside the Coleman disaster,,, Education, Justice is in a complete mess and there is no one to blame but Darin King, and Clyde Jackman who have been running the programs for the last number of years. King and Felix Collins were behind the famous secret Bill that have upset the voters, and government just does not still catch on, McGrath recently have helped take millions of our tax dollars and handed it to Frank Coleman and he still defends himself for this fraud. We have roads in this area and yes for a number of years now one road, route 360 has been voted the worst in the country, yet for each year voted the worst, not one inch of pavement has been laid although Tracey Perry has promised it and paving for one piece of road was announced three times in one year that we never got done. Even Paul Davis was sent out to the area to help with the announcement (This was the third announcement for this piece of road). This has now put Davis in the same league as Perry. I really feel sorry for him. This year McGrath was sent to Hr. Breton to make an announcement with Tracey Perry about all the pavement we are supposed to get this year and he turned that in to a fiasco. Perry has now been involved in stripping two ministers of their credibility. We have the aquaculture industry on the south coast that has turned into nothing short of a garbage dump, mostly paid for by us the tax payers, yet we have no say as to how this mess should be cleaned up. Operate the dam mess but follow the rules and clean up. Because of it we have had hundreds of thousands dollars worth of lobsters that have been contaminated and the aquaculture company has bought them to cover up the fiasco. Millions repaid to the company to pay for diseased fish, Grays went bankrupt and are now starting up again, thanks to our government, and already before the cages go in the water they have created such a mess on the new wharf in Hermitage that people are left to wonder why this can happen again and not one enforcement agency taking a look at it. Not even our local newspaper will say anything negative about it and it must be because the writers are local and are afraid that they to will be chastised like some are now if we ask that the garbage be cleaned up. A gutless wonder or two cannot get the truth out to the people. Locals now are driven out of ponds and bays by supervisors who work with the industry, an authority given to them by God I guess as the company and the government does not have that authority. Environment minister is asleep at the wheel and nothing with regards to effects of the centralized dumps are followed up on and we have more dumps now than every before, depends on where people decide to make them. Environment does not seem to care about the pesticides that are dumped around by the aquaculture industry and all they have to do is listen to the people, and now that has stopped as they are not returning peoples calls. I could go on but if anyone person cannot see who is responsible for such a mess, then maybe they should run for the leader of the PC party. Marshall was touted as the main man and I did some of the touting hoping that he would take responsibility and encourage me to vote PC again and now he is looking like a fool for not standing up to some of these people, but instead is rewarding them. He had the chance to save face by taking King out of cabinet, did not remove McGrath from cabinet for giving away our money, have rewarded Tracey Perry for her many blunders by giving her a parliamentary secretary job, just so that she can help boost her pension and to try to make her popular enough to get votes. This is now about the party and not about NL Marshall now has his credibility damaged because of Perry. If these Ministers and MHAs have any respect left for this province and themselves they would announce that they are not interested in running again. Some of these people would get more of an education from looking at the underwear section of the Sears catalogue, and maybe from what we are seeing they have been. I bet King has nice underwear.

  • Susan
    June 23, 2014 - 14:58

    I can tell you this, if any of the sitting MHA's come out to run, Party is finish.