Vera Barbour has been a Liberal since before there was such a thing.
When the 2020 Liberal Leadership race was announced, she was named honorary chair of the leadership convention.
On Thursday, Barbour, 92, resigned her position in protest of the decision to continue the race amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I haven’t got no intentions of ever getting on the line and trying to sign up and vote for anyone that’s running for the Liberal party with this going on,” said Barbour.
“If they’re more interested in becoming premier than taking care of the province and the people that’s in it, they shouldn’t want to be premier.”
Health Minister John Haggie declared a public health emergency in Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There is one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, with two other presumptive positive cases, each in the Labrador-Grenfell Health region.
Barbour’s history in the political world of Newfoundland and Labrador pre-dates Confederation.
“If they’re more interested in becoming premier than taking care of the province and the people that’s in it, they shouldn’t want to be premier.” — Vera Barbour, life-long Liberal
“I was 15 years old when I went to St. John’s to work with Ches Crosbie Sr. I went to work with the Crosbies, but I started in politics with J.R. Smallwood in 1947. I’m a Liberal,” she said.
“Right now, the time has come that we have to look at what’s good for our province health-wise, and not putting in a leader.”
In New-Wes-Valley to stop in for a cup of tea with the one and only Vera Barbour. pic.twitter.com/Q1HaJH0CTh— Dwight Ball (@DwightBallNL) May 10, 2019
Barbour says she believes Premier Dwight Ball should stay on as leader until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
“I’m hoping they will withdraw it. I’m hoping they will go to work and say, look, here’s a person whose been around the Liberal party back in the J.R. Smallwood days. I’ve always worked with the party, always been loyal to the party,” she said.
“Now I don’t know if it’ll make any difference. I’m only Vera Barbour. You got to be a lawyer or you got to be right up there to do something like that.”
In a statement, the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador says it will not revisit the decision to proceed at this time.
“We respect Ms. Barbour’s decision. As we move our convention to a virtual setting, an honorary co-chair wouldn’t have the same role as an in-person convention. We look forward to having an in-person gathering in the future, when it is safe to do so, to honour Vera and her dedication to the party in the right way,” reads the statement.
“We will revisit the decision if public health reasons warrant it. We are not revisiting yesterday’s decision at this time. As stated yesterday, public health is top of mind in making our deliberations and this election will occur on an entirely virtual basis through online and telephone mechanisms.”
Liberal leadership candidate John Abbott, who wrote the party earlier this week requesting the race be suspended amid COVID-19, says he applauds Barbour’s decision.
“I think for her, on a personal level, it’s a brave decision. I’m sure she had to give that a lot of thought, knowing her association with the party going back over 70 years,” said Abbott.
“That’s a big decision. I think she, like others including our campaign team, realize that there is a bigger issue at play right now in the province. That’s how we address, respond to, and stay safe and financially secure through the COVID-19 situation.”
The Andrew Furey campaign did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
After the initial interview for this story, Barbour called back with one more thought.
“I tell you what I’d like to add. Over the years, Fred Rowe — you know of Fred Rowe, I guess, do you? — Fred Rowe, not only Fred Rowe, but a lot of people have said and I’ve said this too: Liberals do not lose the election. They defeat themselves,” she said.
“Liberals don’t lose. They get in there, they get elected. But before the time comes to go to election, they got theirselves defeated.”