Maverick in the race

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Well, well — now it’s going to get interesting. Wednesday, Corner Brook businessman Bill Barry announced his intention to seek the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservatives, a spot left open by Kathy Dunderdale’s resignation from the premier’s job.

Barry’s well known in the province’s fishing industry, but as any reporter who has ever dealt directly with him can tell you, the way he’s “well known” in that industry doesn’t necessarily mean he’s well liked or diplomatic in any way.

He’s known as a hard bargainer and a tough, blunt negotiator — in fact, there are probably people who would pick far more colourful and direct names for the style he’s used in business.

And there are clear signs that he’s on a collision course with some Tories — almost certainly, a collision course with the existing caucus.

“It’s going to be a revolution based on transparency, democracy, environmental sustainability/protection and fiscal responsibility,” Barry supporters had written in a Facebook invitation to his announcement. Signs at the announcement suggested a main plank would be repealing the Dunderdale government’s secretive Bill 29 changes to the province’s access to information law, something every single member of the Tory caucus supported.

And once he started talking, Barry was pretty clearly on a different message track than the last Tory administration.

“Bill 29 is the most undemocratic thing I ever saw,” Barry told supporters.

Barry as a revolutionary?

That certainly would be true in one way: should Barry win, his arrival in the much-more-staid land of the cabinet room would be revolutionary indeed, a commotion worthy of a fox among the chickens.

A fair number of people would suggest the existing cabinet wouldn’t know what hit them. You almost have to wonder what Tom Marshall’s new cabinet was saying amongst themselves as they attended a swearing-in ceremony set for virtually the same identical time Wednesday as Barry’s announcement.

Because at the lieutenant-governor’s, the message was recycle and review, not revolt.

The best example? The titular architect of Bill 29, Felix Collins, was resurrected and returned to cabinet as attorney general, a clear sign that some see the way backwards as the best way forward. Meanwhile, moments after Barry’s comments, Premier Marshall announced a review of Bill 29.

Perhaps the clearest message from all this is that the next few months, politically at least, are going to be remarkable and interesting times.

The fact that Barry is clearly such an outsider makes it doubly interesting. Barry’s campaign launch looked more like an effort to reach out to a generally dissatisfied electorate than it looked like an effort to reach out to the type of existing Tory supporters he needs to woo to win the leadership in the first place.

The real question is whether he can get the support he needs from the people he needs to get it from, and that’s first and foremost, the Tories themselves.

Organizations: Tory

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    January 30, 2014 - 15:52

    Looks like he's getting the Brad Cabana treatment.

  • SayWhat
    January 30, 2014 - 11:04

    Yesterday was a prime example of how the worst of Corner Brook is witnessed by everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador. At one time Corner Brook was the second city of the province. Today its nothing more than a backstabbing hovel. Like him or hate him, Bill Barry deserved better. But nooo.. the Kingpin Tory of Corner Brook decides to upstage him and has a cabinet shuffle. Not only that, the Kingpin decides to discuss Bill 29. Too coincidental. Mr.Barry you got spies in your camp and it appears plenty of backstabbers were at your campaign announcement.

    • bob
      March 17, 2014 - 19:06

      SayWhat says: "At one time Corner Brook was the second city of the province. Today its nothing more than a backstabbing hovel", Man time to let go your hate of Corner Brook. What is your problem? Did somebody from Corner Brook steal you girlfriend away or something??

  • david
    January 30, 2014 - 10:03

    The biggest oxymoron in this province is the term "fishing industry". That is not an endeavor in which one gains any free market 'business experience', but rather one necessarily becomes quite immersed in the black arts of Newfoundland politics. Just as being an early investor in cable TV proved to be something short of a robust business pedigree, please don't tout Mr. Barry as yet another industrial giant. Please.

  • Barrelman
    January 30, 2014 - 09:10

    While I salute Bill Barry as a successful business owner, I have to question his commitment to 'democracy'. Almost in defiance of seemingly common sense and rationality, can anyone forget when Mr. Barry chose to educate his children at home under the guidance of a male and a female of religious orders rather than expose them to other children, parents and their teachers in the new non-denominational system in the late 90s? Mr. Barry was certainly able and allowed to express his "rights" then, but I believe we have to ask ourselves if, as an elected member of government, he will respect and consider those of others?

  • Wild Rose
    January 30, 2014 - 08:58

    I'll vote for the man who abolishes unions and welfare.

    • Jeff
      January 30, 2014 - 09:26

      I'm sure you would. First you have to be able to spell 'x.'

    • Jeff
      January 30, 2014 - 09:27

      I'm sure you would. First you have to be able to spell 'x.'

    • chris
      January 30, 2014 - 11:02

      We don't choose welfare. Also,NL doesn't need a dictator.

    • Christopher Chafe
      January 30, 2014 - 18:21

      Get rid of welfare in Newfoundland and Labrador.......good grief sure that would be proper political suicide!!!!

    • Angus
      January 30, 2014 - 18:43

      With people like Bill Barry in charge, we will need more than welfare and unions.