Marshall humbled to step in as next premier

Gary
Gary Kean
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Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Tom Marshall speaks to reporters in St. John’s on Wednesday. Marshall will be interim premier after the resignation of Kathy Dunderdale.

CORNER BROOK  When Tom Marshall came home from work Wednesday, the first question his daughter asked him was “are you premier?”

He replied that he wasn’t. Not yet, anyway. Not until today.

With the sudden departure of Kathy Dunderdale, who announced her resignation from the top provincial government job Wednesday, it seemed the Finance minister was an obvious choice to replace her.

Marshall was Dunderdale’s first pick as her interim successor and the Tory caucus was in agreement.

His family knew that he would accept the job if he was asked to do it. It all happened quite quickly, said Marshall, but he does have his family’s support.

“I have a very smart, bright wife who is very, very wise and I listen to her,” said Marshall of his wife, Lin. “She realized you have to step up at a time like this and you can’t say no.”

In contemplating the decision to accept the role of interim premier, Marshall said he began thinking of all of the other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who never backed down when asked to commit their lives to the province.

“We love our province and put our province first,” he said. “I’m not going to be there forever. I will be there for three or four months and I’ll do the best I can during that time.”

One of the people he thought of was his father, the late Sen. Jack Marshall, who had a highly regarded reputation as being a federal MP who always put his constituents first and foremost. The memory of his father was also recalled in an email sent to Marshall on Wednesday from former premier and Member of Parliament Brian Tobin.

Tobin wished Marshall well and told him his father would be proud of him and smiling down on him.

“His last words to me when he was on his death bed were ‘don’t you forget, you look after the poor people,’” said Marshall.

There has already been some buzz that having Marshall in the premier’s position, even if it is only for a few months, will mean good things for Corner Brook and western Newfoundland. While the premier has some influence on decisions made by his cabinet and government in general, Marshall said he has to treat all people and parts of the province fairly.

Marshall will become the province’s 11th premier and the sixth one to hold a seat in the Corner Brook area.

That being said, one of the provincial government’s biggest projects in the works right now is a new regional hospital for Corner Brook. The project has been criticized for being scaled back and there are concerns it won’t meet the region’s health-care needs by the time it is opened years down the road.

Marshall said the project is moving along, with a tender issued and stakeholder consultations being planned.

“I know people have been concerned it has taken so long and there was a delay for two years — there is no question about that, but we are committed to it,” said Marshall. “It’s the number one priority on our infrastructure list, there is money in the fiscal forecast and, obviously I would like to see it moved along.”

Marshall had been in the preliminary stages of preparing the province’s next budget. He will be relinquishing the job of Finance minister to someone else when he becomes premier.

He would not say who he has in mind for that job, or the extent of any cabinet shuffling he will need to do.

“At this point, I am considering a lot of things and getting advice on a lot of things,” he said. “I want to take this weekend to sit and ponder ... I have a lot of ideas and a lot of things I’d like to bring forward, but we have a cabinet process and we go through the process and make our decisions as a group.”

His job as premier is not to repair the Progressive Conservative party’s woes, said Marshall.

“My role is to maintain the government, have a stable government and carry on,” he said. “There must always be a premier and a government in office”

The PC party will choose a new leader, who will then become the next premier, in the next three or four months. A general election, as dictated by provincial legislation, must be held within a year of the premier’s resignation.

That has thrown a monkey wrench into Marshall’s plans as he had already said he would retire from politics when the election that had been set for October 2015 came around.

“My dad used to say timing and luck is so important in politics,” said Marshall.

He said he had contemplated a run at the leadership when former premier Danny Williams stepped down in 2010, but decided not to. He said the latest unexpected turn in this political path is just another example of the ever-changing landscape that is politics.

Organizations: Tory, The PC

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Newfoundland

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  • CA
    January 24, 2014 - 07:35

    Tom Marshall .......well what can anyone say after that?...what a man, husband, father and politician.....but MORE importantly....Lin Marshall what a woman!!!! I always tell my child that being strong is not necessarily about muscles or the size of a person, for me it's always been about your backbone and courage...and in this case here I'm glad the new premier had both to listen to his wife and remember the touching comments his father said to him. I'm sure you'll do him and the rest of us proud. the best of luck to you and of course your LOVELY and SMART wife.