Kent says he offers ‘youthful energy’ in bid for premiership

James McLeod
Published on July 4, 2014
Mount Pearl North MHA Steve Kent announces he is in the running for the leadership of the PC party at the Hotel Mount Pearl on Thursday night with his wife, Janet Kent, and their son, Sam Kent. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent was surrounded by family — including his three-day-old son — as he announced Thursday night that he’s running to be premier of the province.

Kent made his three children the focus of his speech, saying his leadership bid is fundamentally about them.

“I’m thinking about my children’s future. I’m thinking about their children’s future. I’m thinking about a prosperous future for generations of people in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Kent said. “We all want the best for our children. We want them to have opportunity and prosperity.”

About 150 people packed into the Hotel Mount Pearl to hear Kent's speech, and most of them stuck around for the pig roast outside afterwards.

Kent becomes the third person to jump into the PC party leadership race. On Wednesday, Health Minister Paul Davis threw his hat in the ring. Former Tory cabinet minister John Ottenheimer has been an accredited candidate for more than a week.

This is the second time the Tories have run their leadership selection race since then-premier Kathy Dunderdale resigned in January.

In the first going off, no one from the Progressive Conservative caucus or cabinet entered the race, and cabinet ministers lined up to support businessman Frank Coleman, who had zero political experience.

Behind the scenes it was widely rumoured that former premier Danny Williams was orchestrating the political fait accompli.

Coleman was on track to win the PC leadership by default after his competitors withdrew or were kicked out of the race, but in June, he shocked the political world by withdrawing from public life for unspecified family reasons.

Kent endorsed Coleman back in March.

“The only reason I didn’t run last time is at the 11th hour, I decided to support Frank Coleman. And Frank Coleman isn’t in the race this time, so I am,” Kent told reporters Thursday night.

He said one of the main things that sets him apart from Ottenheimer and Davis is his age.

“I have great respect for Paul Davis and John Ottenheimer. I bring something a little different. I bring some youthful energy and enthusiasm,” Kent said.

“I’m 36. I consider that youthful, although my friends remind me all the time that I’m not as youthful as I think.”

Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Clyde Jackman also brought up Kent’s age, saying youth is just what the PC party needs.

“I’ve seen him operate as a minister. He’s a very bright, intelligent, capable young man,” Jackman said. “Over the next couple of months, you’re going to see this gentleman establish where he sees this province going.”

Kent’s wife, Janet Kent, said it’ll be a challenge to handle a newborn and two other small children while Kent is off on the campaign trail, but as a family, they’re excited about the race.

“It’s a very crazy time. Sam was born on Monday, and here we are today,” she said. “Steve will be on the road, because he intends, obviously, to visit all the districts, and we’ll try to get there with him as much as we can.”

The deadline for nominations for the PC party leadership races is Monday. In July and August, district associations will elect delegates for a convention in September, where the new leader will be elected.

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