Health Minister Paul Davis made it official in Paradise Wednesday evening, formally declaring that he’s running to become the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
About 200 people crowded into the Rotary community centre to hear the announcement, including a handful of Tory caucus members and cabinet ministers.
Davis talked a bit about his personal history — as a police officer, municipal councillor and cancer survivor — but the emphasis was heavily on what he brings to the PC party now, and what he wants to do in the future.
“My promise to you is to lead by example. I’ve done that my entire life, by working hard, listening to my fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in every corner of this province,” Davis said.
“Working together with people will lead to better results. I’ve worked hard on every path that I have taken, and I will earn your trust. I will seek your support, and with your vote, I will become leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
The PC party is re-running its leadership after a disastrous false start this spring, when two of the three candidates dropped out, and the third one was kicked out.
Former Tory cabinet minister John Ottenheimer filed his papers and was accredited as a candidate last week; Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent is expected to announce his plans to run for the leadership this evening.
Davis said he didn’t run for the leadership in the spring because he was still recovering from cancer; in 2011, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“It’s not something that I intend to dwell on, but I was in a different place personally,” he told reporters. “My health was in a different place and I’ve come a long way in the last six months.”
Whoever wins the leadership will go straight into the premier’s office, but they’ll also inherit a party that’s more than 20 points down in the polls, with an election a year away.
Lewisporte MHA Wade Verge, one of several members of caucus in Paradise Wednesday to support Davis, said the party needs to do a better job communicating, and he thinks Davis can do that.
“We’ve done a lot of good things. Our economy is strong — more jobs than ever before,” Verge said. “I think what we need to do is a better job of selling what it is that we are doing.”
Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley also praised Davis, and gave the introduction at the campaign launch.
Ottenheimer welcomed Davis to the race, saying that a competitive race will help rebuild party support.
“We need this. We need a good, spirited, competitive convention — a traditional convention where party faithful and party supporters will gather in September,” he said.
In late July and early August, district associations across the province will hold delegate selection meetings.
On the weekend of Sept. 12-13, the PC Party will hold a leadership convention in St. John’s.
Nominations for the leadership race close on Monday.