One of the stalwarts of the Progressive Conservative government — Environment Minister Joan Shea — is calling it quits.
Shea has been a member of the Tory inner circle since she was elected in 2003, and was one of only two members of the PC caucus who’s remained around the cabinet table that whole time.
The other one, Premier Tom Marshall, said he’s sad to see her go.
“She leaves a legacy to be proud of. She’s been a passionate advocate for women and children. She’s been a tireless voice for education,” he said. “Her contributions to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be felt for many years to come.”
Shea has served in a range of different portfolios — Advanced Education and Skills and its precursor, Human Resources, Labour and Employment; she was the minister who founded the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, and most recently she served as Environment minister.
Friends and colleagues said she was a fierce advocate for children, education and women’s issues.
“I firmly believe that you cannot go wrong by having an educated population,” Shea said, talking about her ethos in government while announcing her resignation.
She said the resignation just came down to the fact that she was getting tired.
“Being a politician is a lifestyle, not a job. You need energy and enthusiasm to do this job, and when you begin to feel tired, it’s time to step aside and let others step up,” she said.
“I made the final decision within the last couple of days and once I made it, I committed to it.”
When Marshall was asked if he expects any more high-profile resignations in the near future, he said wryly, “I can tell you one.”
Marshall will retire in July to make way for incoming premier Frank Coleman, who does not yet have a seat in the House of Assembly.
This sets up a pair of byelections on the west coast of the province in two longtime Tory districts —
St. George’s-Stephenville East and Humber East.
The premier has to call a byelection in a vacated district within 60 days.
Opposition politicians reacting to Shea’s resignation wished her well, but predicted there would be more longtime members of government leaving or not running again in the next general election.
“The polling, the way it’s showing now, certainly seems to be momentum for the Liberals,” Liberal MHA Tom Osborne said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see more individuals leave the PC caucus.”
In addition to Shea and Marshall, then-premier Kathy Dunderdale resigned in January and former finance minister Jerome Kennedy stepped aside last year.
Osborne was a member of the Tory caucus for a long time, before he crossed the floor and joined the Liberals.
Marshall said it’s all part of the evolution that the PC party is undergoing.
“We’re going through a process of a new leadership, of renewal,” he said. “He’ll be sworn in as premier and I expect to see people come and people go, as is inevitable in politics.”