PC race begins in earnest

Kent, Davis and Ottenheimer start mapping out their campaigns to become premier

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on July 8, 2014
Tory leadership candidate Paul Davis speaks to members of the MUN Progressive Conservatives Monday evening. Davis said he wants his campaign and policy to be developed more by listening to people than anything else.
— Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

On Monday night, PC party leadership candidate Paul Davis ended up in a small room at Memorial University, talking to members of the MUN PCs

Davis had a few specific election promises in hand — he promised to start House of Assembly reform and convene a “health summit” within his first 120 days in office — but he said he was more interested in listening than talking.

Davis said one of the cornerstones of his leadership bid is about making the Tories a party that listens better.

“The people of the province don’t think we’ve done a very good job of that,” he said.

Later this week, the MUN PCs will hold sessions with the other two candidates in the race, Steve Kent and John Ottenheimer.

The race to woo potential Tory voters started in earnest Monday, with the close of nominations.

Over the latter half of July and in early August, districts across the province will hold delegate selection meetings, and all three men running to become the next premier say they’ll travel far and wide to talk to potential voters.

More specifically, it means getting out to districts and making sure people who support you are elected as delegates.

“We’re going to get as many of our supporters to each delegate selection meeting as we possibly can. That’s how this game is played,” Kent said. “My priority is to connect with as many potential delegates as possible. This is a traditional delegated convention, and that has a major impact on the kinds of strategies that a candidate would employ.”

A big part of the race, also, is getting MHAs and party insiders to back a candidate. Aside from elected delegates from each district, the district association executive members and the ex officio party members each get a vote at the Sept. 12-13 convention in St. John’s.

All three candidates promised plenty of policy detail when it comes to what, exactly, they would do if they’re elected premier.

But Kent and Ottenheimer weren’t offering too much in the way of specifics on Day 1.

Kent said that if he’s premier he’ll hold a series of “premier’s summits” where he’ll meet with people and consult on a range of public policy issues. He also promised to reform and modernize the House of Assembly.

Ottenheimer has promised to make Nalcor more transparent, and he said he’ll make a policy announcement very shortly on the province’s unfunded pension liability.

“We have to deal with what is clearly a significant indebtedness and liability, and we have to deal with that head on,” he said.

As part of the fallout from Kent and Davis running, there are two vacancies in cabinet, which Premier Tom Marshall will have to fill.

In a statement, Marshall said a cabinet shuffle is coming this week.

“Now that the nomination process has ended, in the coming days, I will finalize decision-making, make contact with affected individuals and announce the new cabinet this week,” Marshall said.