Tories gather in the lead up to the leadership campaign

James McLeod
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It was a small gathering — fewer than 20 people — at the Elk’s Club in St. John’s for the Progressive Conservative Party St. John’s East district association meeting.

It was a small gathering at the Elk’s Club in St. John’s for the Progressive Conservative Party St. John’s East district association meeting Thursday evening. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

The meeting was not quite as advertised; a notice in the newspaper said they would be electing delegates to the upcoming Tory leadership convention — which seemed weird, given that the leadership campaign isn’t even underway, and so far, only one candidate has formally said he’s in the race.

It turns out the Tories misread their party constitution, and they’ll have to hold another meeting in April or May to elect delegates — you can’t hold a delegate selection meeting more than 90 days before the convention.

But the little knot of PC Party supporters elected five new executive officers for the St. John’s East district association, all of whom will get a vote as ex officio delegates.

Lawyer Ches Crosbie, who was nominated unopposed as district association president, said the party needs to reinvent itself in the leadership race.

“It’s going to be tough for somebody in the caucus who’s been around for a while to convince the public that they’re forming a government which is genuinely and fundamentally new,” he said. “So it probably has to be someone from the outside.”

Crosbie said there’s a lot to like from Bill Barry — the only person who’s formally said he’s running for the leadership — but there were also rumblings of skepticism in the room.

“He’s a true Newfoundland original; he’s got lots of ideas, he’s got lots of energy. Maybe he’s the man,” Crosbie said. “The question in my mind is: Is he electable?”

Former MHA Ed Buckingham, who will also get to cast a vote at the leadership convention, said he’s not convinced that the Tories have drifted all that far off track.

He said he believes the government is having some troubles with Muskrat Falls, and Bill 29 wasn’t such a great idea, but they haven’t strayed too far off track.

“There’s been a lot of good policy stuff that has happened,” he said.”I think there’s a lot of things that, because they’re very sensible and because they do make sense, people don’t make a big fuss about it.”

On the other hand, Buckingham said he believes that the bad stuff got all the attention, even though it was just a couple isolated files.

“It’s kind of like having a pimple on your forehead; that’s all anyone sees,” he said.

Several Tories at the meeting, including Buckingham, said the more candidates in the race, the better it will be for the party.

“I’m hoping for at least four — possibly more — candidates,” he said. “I think what has to happen is the party needs to bring out its members who have good ideas about what should happen. I think the leadership will allow those types of ideas to get out there.”

It’ll be another week or so before the PC Party firms up the rules of the campaign; there are half a dozen serious contenders who are keeping their powder dry, waiting to see the lay of the land before they commit.

From there, candidates will have to organize to get committed supporters out for the delegate selection meetings — what was supposed to be happening Thursday night at the Elks Club — in April and May ahead of the July 4-5 convention.

Retired MHA Tom Hickey said he hopes to be involved as well. Hickey served as Cape St. Francis MHA for 20 years, from the 1960s to the 1980s, and held several cabinet portfolios, but he said he hasn’t been involved in the party in recent years.

He said he’s not too concerned about the current party fortunes.

“The fact of where the party is in the polls doesn’t deter me from being hopeful,” Hickey said. “I’m not discouraged by a long shot.”

He said he’s getting involved again now, partly because of what he’s hearing from interim premier Tom Marshall.

“He caught my attention, and obviously, because of that, I’m here tonight; because I have to give it one more time. He said he wanted to see some equality in terms of the prosperity, and that’s long overdue,” Hickey said. “Marshall is hitting the nail right on the head; there has to be a change, there has to be something done.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: PC Party, Tory, East district association Elks Club

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Shelly
    February 09, 2014 - 16:49

    By any chance is Virginia Water, Cathy Bennett? trying to mislead the people by implying the liberal is the best party, to lead us in the 21 first century, if she is, then Mr Ball is doing a very poor job of it.

  • Charles Murphy
    February 07, 2014 - 18:14

    @ Virginia Waters, If I was giving the chance I could convince you, But that not likely to happen. Because the PC's are looking for a figure head, not a leader.

  • Virginia Waters
    February 07, 2014 - 14:03

    Kudos to stalwarts like Hickey for keeping Her Majesty's opposition alive during this province's dark days of dictatorship. But here's the problem - the party needs to convince me to give it a vote. Why me? Well, because I never voted anything other than Tory. If they can't convince me (and I'm 99% certain they can't), then they're going to have a real problem convincing people with less history and less commitment to the Tory party. With respects to Ed, he is deluding himself. This is not a pimple on the party's face. It's a malignant growth on its vital organs, part of which has been surgically removed but a lot remains. The only chance for the Tories - and then it's slim - is to find a dynamic, trustworthy leader not contaminated by what's in there now. It can't be Manning or Power, neither of which could ever get past siding with Ottawa against the province. Barry is a smart guy and perhaps very well intentioned. But as Crosbie hints, I doubt he is electable. Anyone perceived by rural Newfoundlanders as having made his fortune on their backs is not likely to go down well. There are lots of other good people out there (e.g. Hillier, Vardy, Galway) but of course few who are prepared to make a commitment to what is likely to be a long haul. I hope the Tories come up with the right person - not for their sakes but for the sake of democracy. I think it's time the Liberals were given a chance but - given the dictum on power corrupting - I also want to see a strong opposition.

  • Crazy
    February 07, 2014 - 10:50

    In order to build the party they need someone from outside.