Ask Wayne Bennett if he’s thinking of running for Leader of the Progressive Conservative party in this province and he has a very definitive answer.
“The decision is already made, I’m going to do it,” the former leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador First party said. “People are disillusioned with the PC Party in this province. They’re voting with their feet and leaving, and that’s just sad.”
Bennett was in Corner Brook asking for signatures to allow him run for the party leadership. Seafood company owner Bill Barry is the only candidate confirmed to be running for the position. Grocery store magnate Frank Coleman and Corner Brook resident Clarence Cantwell have also said they may run for the leadership. MHA Steve Kent is also considering.
With the deadline of noon Friday approaching, Bennett said he only needed 14 more signatures as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
“This is like a game of chess; we’ll see who makes the next move,” quipped Bennett. “I haven’t got a checkmate yet, but we’ll see tomorrow for the deadline.”
Humber Valley East MHA Tom Marshall recently took over as interim premier after Kathy Dunderdale stepped down. With Marshall signalling he would not run in the next election, the field is open for the next nomination.
Bennett said people simply don’t like how the PC party is being run anymore, which is allowing the Liberals to attract more members. In his view, the PC Party has been “hijacked” by what he calls the “Water Street merchants,” which turns off a lot of people in the rest of the province.
Something is wrong, he said, when people who were members of the PC party for 50 years are now card-carrying members of the Liberal Party.
“Go get on a (see-saw) at the park with a bigger guy and see what’s going to happen — you’ll go up, but not because you have better policies or a better party,” said Bennett. “I like (Liberal Leader) Dwight (Ball), he’s my MHA and I have a lot of respect for him but he’s not exactly lighting the room on fire. He’s going up (in the polls) because the PCs have become so bad. It’s the natural law of physics.”
The Howley resident said the biggest issue facing the province is the Muskrat Falls hydro-electricity project, which he believes could cause serious damage to the province’s economy.
“Muskrat Falls has the potential to bankrupt this province,” he said. “It should continue as a project but only to provide power to industrial Labrador because you cannot produce power at 21-26 cents a kilowatt and then turn around and sell it for 3-5 cents.
“Who will pick up the difference? The ratepayer.”
The construction of the new hospital in Corner Brook, he said, is also a major concern for this part of the province. In Bennett’s view, the construction is taking so long because the bulk of the province’s finances are spent on the east coast, giving the west coast “crumbs.”
With a slogan of “Bennett: A fresh start,” Bennett hopes he’ll receive the rest of the signatures he needs by Friday’s deadline.