Bill Barry talks about how to rig a leadership race

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Bill Barry sat down with the Telegram Wednesday to talk politics, underhanded campaigning and the straw that broke the camel's back and pushed him out of the race.

By James McLeod

ST. JOHN’S — Bill Barry knows how to rig a delegated convention, if you’re trying to do that sort of thing; he was involved in doing it last time around, back 25 years ago, when the PC Party selected Tom Rideout to be premier.

Back then, there were all sorts of underhanded tricks, but the easiest one was to simply book a small venue for the delegate selection meeting.

“You’d normally pick a building that you could only put a hundred people into. Then the fire marshal, the fire code would shut it down after a hundred,” he said. “So all you had to do was make sure that your 60 or 70 people got there first. Then it was done.”

Back then, as a campaign worker in the Bay of Islands district, Barry said he was involved in all sorts of stuff.

“You’d be hauling people out of bars, and I can remember, one day we gave out 300 dozen beer or something,” he said.

Fast forward a couple decades, and he said he expected the leadership process to be more on the up-and-up.

“Yes, I’m asking it to be different than the delegated conventions 25 years ago. Yes I am. I have that expectation.”

But you know what? Before they cashed my cheque of $10,000 I told them I had that expectation, I told them for two months that I had that expectation that this was going to be a clean delegated convention,” Barry said. “I am not OK with small-minded people manipulating people in their own districts that they think that they want, to give them power over who’s going to be the god damn premier. I am not OK with that.”

Barry surprised a lot of people in political circlers last Thursday when he bowed out of the PC Party leadership race. He said the deck was stacked against him, and the party machine was boxing him out.

He sat down to talk with TC Media over lunch Wednesday to explain what he saw that convinced him that the fix was in.

The turning point was the Bonavista South delegate selection meeting. At that meeting, Barry said every single convention delegate was nominated by local MHA Glen Little’s constituency assistant.

And at the April 10 meeting, Barry said he saw people passing around small printed cards with names on them, telling people who to vote for.

The next night, April 11, TC Media sent a reporter to the Trinity-Bay de Verde district delegate selection meeting in Heart’s Content, and observed similar activities.

When questioned, everybody in Heart’s Content said they knew nothing about little printed cards with names on them. TC Media was planning on investigating the matter further at other delegate selection meetings, but then Barry dropped out of the race before we got a chance.

Barry made a formal complaint about unfair campaign practices to the PC Party, but he said he was brushed off.

Barry said he had a message that he wanted to get out, and he believed that people would find his views on the direction for the provincial government compelling, but he met with obstruction and a deaf ear during the campaign.

He said he pushed for a series of televised debates, but his opponent, Frank Coleman, stalled and declined. Finally, the Coleman camp agreed to a half-hour radio debate on May 1, but by that time, the campaign was already half over and at least 14 delegate selection meetings would’ve already taken place.

TC Media requested an interview with premier-in-waiting Frank Coleman for this story, but a spokeswoman said he was unavailable.

Barry said he’d get back into the race if the party addressed is concerns and made it a level playing field. Convention co-chair Tommy Williams told TC Media that as far as they’re concerned, Barry is out of the race.

Williams said the party will likely make an announcement today about what happens next.

Stepping back and taking a look a the big picture, Barry said he thinks that the Liberal model for a party leadership is better, with voting open to anybody who wants to sign up. The Liberals also held a series of debates before anybody cast a ballot.

The way things happened, though, Barry said it seems a very small group of insiders picked Frank Coleman.

“Your premier is chosen by, probably a dozen people,” he said. “It was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was told by a particular individual that I was providing a great service to the party. And I was thinking about, you know, the bull servicing the cow, and thinking that I was the cow.”


The Telegram

Organizations: PC Party

Geographic location: Bonavista South

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Recent comments

  • Labrador contractor
    April 26, 2014 - 17:43

    the public should know what is going on. Frank Coleman sells his shares in one of his businesses to run for the PC leadership. Not too unusual for a man before entering politics BUT the PC in exchange lets this HUMBER VALLEY PAVING company off contracts to complete work on the trans labrador highway. A complete joke once you consider how many more millions it will cost government/ tax payers to re-tender these contracts. The work has to be done?? The entire tendering act is thrown out the door, the PC party is going to be the laughing stock when all of this comes to the forefront and it will. Also, look at the PC government releasing hold backs on work completed on these contracts... I just wonder will the shareholders past and present receive all their monies first before paying all the small unsecured companies from coastAl Labrador??? I would like to get that answer, Mr Barry you should have stayed in the race!

  • Shawn Burton
    April 25, 2014 - 18:13

    There's an certain skill set required when you're looking to win friends and influence people. A social polish if you will. I no doubt think Mr. Barry had great ideas and charisma and perhaps with a better method of working with people, he would find more success. Private business can yield astounding results under the direction of one man or woman. However, politics very much lends itself towards a team environment where co-operation, listening and respect are key. If Mr. Barry knew the type of game being played- why did he even bother to run in such an institution? He entered in to that type of environment, but now, unsuccessful, decides to criticize it. I'm sensing a lot of frustration and burned bridges here... Bad form.

  • zippy
    April 24, 2014 - 15:15

    This is sad. Mr. Barry didn't get his way, so he's moving on blaming everyone - the PCs, MHAs, government, and anyone else who didn't support him. Now he's whining that the he didn't have a chance . . . well, maybe if he didn't start off by criticizing the very people he wanted to lead . . . nice start. Too bad he didn't have the foresight to stick it out, anything is possible. But not Mr. Barry - he got sooky and took his ball and went home. What is even more disappointing is that the current state of NL politics isn't great. Since Danny Williams left this province has been drifting along. Even with the Liberal's knocking on the door - is Mr. Ball going to be any better? Maybe, but I'm more concerned about the riffraff that'll tag along for ride. Licking their lips to get into power - no real policies, no real commitment to the people of NL, just desperate to get into government. As for the poor NDP, well, let's face it. It was blip on the radar for a while as the Liberals rebuilt. Even nationally, they're barely being supported. Helps when they're the default vote in Quebec (that's another rant). If Mr. Barry truly wanted to be the leader of the NL PC Party he would have stuck it out, campaigned and pushed Mr. Coleman (and whomever else) in making it a debate for the future of this province for this current government.

  • Bill quilty
    April 24, 2014 - 13:37

    Would Bill be complaining and doing the rounds in the media if the tables were turned in his favor. He's ok with rigging the out come of an election or vote as long as it's in his best interest. All this coming from the "man who lost the parties vote the night he announced he was running". I couldn't tell if he was about to give a speech or we were watching a rodeo.

  • D Browning-Perkins
    April 24, 2014 - 11:34

    I admire you, Mr. Barry for your forthright honesty; and personal integrity. You are exhibiting the qualities of what a real politician should be. Good luck to you sir !

  • John Q public
    April 24, 2014 - 08:07

    WOW. Is Mr. Barry stating the Progressive Conservatives are corrupt with how they install their leaders? Is this the reborn and open Progressive Conservative government we will inherit if elected in the next election? Folks, 5please pay attention to this important information Mr. Barry has placed at our feet. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians must think carefully when Making their next vote. Their may be some smoke and mirrors happening here.

  • Gerry Samms
    April 24, 2014 - 07:35

    Hi Bill; It is too bad you have left the race.... Maybe you should look at getting back in , regardless of underhanded methods. It sure does look like a closed camp at the Coleman organization according to TC Media.