The Liberal Commons member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte confirmed Monday that he will not be seeking the leadership role.
The veteran MP said the biggest factor in his decision was the reality that there is no current opening in the provincial legislature for him.
He thought there might be when Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced a cabinet shuffle earlier this year. At the time, Byrne thought Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall, who had previously announced this would be his last term in provincial politics, might be resigning his seat as the Tory legislature member for Humber East.
“I, like many others, thought there would be a byelection soon to be called in Humber East as a result,” said Byrne.
Marshall may have said he won’t run in the next provincial election in 2015, but has never otherwise said he would be leaving politics any earlier than that.
Byrne said being an MHA would be “not just important, but essential,” if he were to go for the leadership later this year and lead the Liberal party into the October 2015 general election. He said leading the party through the imminent tough times predicted by government in the shadow of the inordinate cost of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project requires a presence in the House of Assembly.
“October 2015 is a long time away and one of the key factors is there are no openings and there very may well not be in the next two and a half years,” said Byrne.
Even if a seat was to unexpectedly become vacant in the immediate future, Byrne said he plans to remain an MP for now.
“I have reconciled all the circumstances and have come to the conclusion I am ready, anxious and enthusiastically going to embrace my job as MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte and end any and all speculation, should there be any, that I am half-hearted about that job or that I am keeping my eye on other options,” said Byrne.
The veteran MP, who first went to Ottawa in 1996, said he had “an impressive team” ready for the effort to win the leadership, and felt he had the backing of the constituents in his federal riding to do so.
“I truly thought I had some great skills, talents and ideas to bring to that job,” he said. “But the reality is, without a seat in the legislature, my participation in that could have been a stumbling block to the Liberal party forming the next government.”
Byrne believes whoever does lead the Liberals into the 2015 general election will become premier at that time. He is confident current interim leader Dwight Ball can do that.
“However difficult it was to make this decision personally, from that perspective it made it significantly easier because I knew the party would be left in good hands,” he said of Ball’s leadership capabilities.
While his leadership aspirations are now on hold, Byrne would not rule out running in the 2015 provincial election for a seat as an MHA.
“Maybe a switch to provincial politics in 2015 is still in the cards,” he said. “That will unfold as it should ... I won’t close that door but, while I’m currently an MP, there won’t be any change in that.”