Looking to a leader

Brandon Anstey
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Gander MHA weighs in on the race for Progressive Conservative leadership

The camp of the Progressive Conservative Party is full of excitement, and with leadership nominations nearing deadline, Gander MHA and minister of Advanced Education and Skills Kevin O’Brien offered up his thoughts about the race.

MHA Kevin O'Brien

While he’s not interested in running for the party’s top seat, Minister O’Brien said it might take some outside help to put the party right back on top the approval ratings.

“I don’t want to (run) at this point in time,” said the Gander MHA. “We probably need someone from the outside to bring a little bit of a different vision and new energy into our caucus. If we can achieve that through the couple of people outside the party who are interested now, I think that is the route we need to take as a party.”

There’s a lot of potential for a potent leader, and the PC party will strongly evaluate each candidate, said Minister O’Brien.

“Well, we’re going to have to be looking at a person’s success over the years and what that means to the party and what it means to the province on a go-forward basis. We have to have a sustainable province for the future and that’s been a cornerstone for our government since 2003.”

The PC party has accomplished a lot, he said, and will choose a leader who can continue that kind of governance.

“We have had consecutive surpluses in the province over the last number of years. Now, we have seen a couple of deficits in the last two years, and that’s all due to our dependence on revenues from our oil industry. So, we’ve been steering the province away from our dependency on non-renewable resource revenues to renewable resource revenues to give us long-term sustainability into the future. From my perspective for a leader, they would have the same mindset as myself in regards to how important that is to our province and our children because we have to have a sustainable economy into the future.”

While the party has had much success, it needs a facelift and having a new leader will give it just that, said Minister O’Brien.

“After 10 or 12 years it’s not bad to have someone come in and tweak your vision and your strategy, because we developed a strategy back in 2003, 2004 and 2005,” he said. “That’s a great strategy and you should follow it

because once you have a well-laid plan to the future, well then keep on that plan because it will bring you into fruition into the future. We have that in regards to our energy plan and our other strategies that we developed in the early 2000’s. But, a new leader coming in might very well bring a lot more to the table in regards of tweaking that plan for the future, and make us much better for the province.”

The Gander MHA might not be running for the leadership of the PC party, but he is excited to see new candidates step up to the plate.

“I’m looking forward to listening to all of the candidates,” said Minister O’Brien. “I know there’s others coming forward. It’s really interesting to listen to their ideas, visions, and strategies that they may have for the province and the people of the province. It’s going to be an exciting race, and it brings a lot of attention to our party.”

The PC party has been under the leadership of Premier Tom Marshall since Kathy Dunderdale stepped down in January, and has gained back some of its popularity in the last few weeks, said the Gander MHA.

“I think we’re doing well. I can feel it out there on the ground: There’s a change with regards to people looking at us again and listening and attaching themselves to our vision and our strategy. I feel people are starting to come back and believe in our party and our vision. It’s good for the people and it’s good for the province.”

There’s a bit of pruning to do yet, but a strong leader is exactly what the party needs right now, said Minister O’Brien.

“We just got to connect better with the people in the province,” he said. “We have to have a sustainable future and government, but what we fell down on was communicating all of that. So, we have to do that much better going forward. People have ideas and challenges and we need to listen to that.”

The deadline for leadership nominations is March 14. A new leader will emerge in the summer.



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