UPDATE: Terry French calls it quits

Published on September 4, 2014
Terry French, minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, presented a cheque of $500,000 from the provincial government to the games.
Diane Crocker

Justice Minister Terry French wants people to know that his resignation isn’t a matter of political opportunism

When The Telegram spoke to him this morning, shortly after he announced that he’ll be leaving politics, French said he’s been through the good and the bad with the PC Party, all the way back to 1989.

“For people that think that I’m jumping the sinking ship, well, I was on the ship when it was a raft,” he said. “There were days over the 10 or 12 years (during the Clyde Wells and Brian Tobin governments) where we could’ve had our conventions in a telephone booth.”

But French’s resignation comes amid a mass exodus of the PC Party front bench. Ministers Jerome Kennedy and Joan Shea resigned in the past year. Premier Kathy Dunderdale resigned in January. Finance Minister Charlene Johnson is expected to resign this afternoon, and interim Premier Tom Marshall is expected to resign within two weeks.

All of those politicians were long-serving senior ministers in the government, and served under former premier Danny Williams. But now, French said, it’s time for renewal and the next leader of the party will need to manage that turnover.

“The biggest thing that the new leader will have to face, I think, will be the ability to attract new, talented people from all walks of life,” he said. “That’s the strength that we’ve had in the last number of elections.”

French said he’s got a new job lined up, but he wouldn’t say what exactly that job is. He said his formal resignation will take effect after the PC Party leadership convention to pick Marshall’s successor, which will take place on the weekend of Sept. 13.

The current batch of resignations comes against the backdrop of steadily sinking poll numbers for the PC Party.

According to data released by Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates this week, the PC Party only has 26 per cent support among decided voters. By comparison, the Liberals currently enjoy 58 per cent support.

French said his decision to leave didn’t have anything to do with that, though. He said after 12 years in elected politics, he was just starting to burn out.

“After awhile, you’ve been in this business for 12 years, your skin tends to get thin again, and I found myself getting like that over the past several months, and that’s not a good place to be when you’re in this business.”

French said it’s been a privilege to serve the people of Conception Bay South over the past 12 years.

The current batch of expected resignations sets up three byelections this fall, in the districts of Conception Bay South, Humber East, and Trinity-Bay de Verde.

•••

(Earlier story)

Justice Minister Terry is resigning from cabinet, and Finance Minister Charlene Johnson is expected to announce her resignation this afternoon.

The latest two resignations come after a parade of senior Progressive Conservatives have quit politics in the past year — former ministers Jerome Kennedy, Joan Shea and former premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Interim Premier Tom Marshall is expected to announce his resignation in less than two weeks after the PC Party holds its leadership convention to pick a new permanent leader.

All of this comes against the backdrop of a recent poll that put the governing Tories at 26 per cent public support, compared to the Liberals at 58 per cent support among decided voters.

In his statement to media, French said that he's ready to go after 12 years in public life.

"It has been a wonderful career. These have been exciting times, as we have seen an unprecedented growth in the provincial economy, and an unprecedented increase in pride in ourselves as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," French said. "I look forward now to new challenges, and new opportunities, as I enter this next phase of my life.”