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Friday 14 February 2014


A new name has emerged in the race for the Tory Leadership.   Frank Coleman, scion of the well-known Newfoundland business family, has confirmed to the media that he is interested in the job.  A decision is imminent.

People who know Frank Coleman personally (I do not) describe him as bright, analytical and thoughtful.  The same people describe him as possessing a charisma that is “quiet and reserved”.  In all likelihood they are fans.

Even if this picture is only partly correct, Coleman would not be making this decision on a whim; he would have the overwhelming support of the P.C. Caucus.  More likely, their support is unanimous.

Coleman’s expression of interest in the role of Premier is significant and not just because he wasn’t on the media’s list. 

Frank Coleman is being courted. 

A group of people within and outside the Tory Caucus, including former Premier Danny Williams, have cast their net widely.  Coleman is deemed to possess the right mix of personal and professional credentials.  He is the guy senior Tories are counting on to rescue the P.C. Party from crisis, if not total collapse.    

The Tories have calculated that they need an ‘outsider’, someone with a reputation for being forthright and honest.  The choice of Frank Coleman reflects that imperative; without an injection of decency and credibility, this Government is toast.

The irony is that, once again, Danny Williams gets a say in the choice of his successor.  He screwed up badly last time.  A second irony is that the rank and file of the P.C. Party, once again, may not get the opportunity to elect a Leader. 

Will Bill Barry stay in the race?  Will Shawn Skinner enter the fray?

Frank Coleman would be well advised, notwithstanding the hand of Danny, to welcome a vigorous contest.  The P.C. Party needs one; the public needs a proper airing of some critical public policy issues.

They especially need to see if Coleman is a progressive, a conservative or if, as a business person, he is too far to the right in a Province which only allows politics to be driven on the left.

Public policy matters aside, Coleman’s interest in the top spot reveals a picture more complicated than just the need to permanently replace Kathy Dunderdale, bad Polls, or even the Party’s banishment to the political wilderness. 

The move suggests the few ostensibly interested Cabinet Ministers, on the media’s ‘List’, have contemplated their fortunes and have struck themselves off. 

None possess, it seems, the requisite skills, credibility or capacity to rekindle the respect and confidence of a very disillusioned public.  None is capable of re-building the Party in time for the next election.  It is quite an admission for a Government in power this long.

The reality of the Williams/Dunderdale’s legacy has finally sunk in.

Let’s face it.  Even if one Cabinet Minister had the support of other colleagues, who among the general public would believe him/her capable of dealing arms-length with Nalcor, strong enough to look voters in the eye and stand accountable, or be suddenly able to make policy decisions the Government has long avoided?

The answer is: no one.

Other questions beg acknowledgement.

If Frank Coleman is acceptable: why not Bill Barry?  Both are outsiders.

For some reason, neither Bill Barry nor any of the “pretenders” on the media List were judged against the delegate selection process that ultimately determines the outcome of the Contest.  It failed to answer the question: from where would their support come?

Why, for example, can’t Bill Barry win? 

Simply put, Mr. Barry cannot command a large block of support from Caucus.  Hence, he cannot win.

And make no mistake the Caucus will determine the outcome of the Race.  There is no mystery; it is all about the math.  

The P.C Party’s Constitution requires that if there are two or more Candidates, a Convention will be held in which eligible delegates are permitted to vote. 

Eligible delegates will include the P.C. Caucus, a large number of ex-officio delegates (defined as Tory Senators, former Tory MHAs, MPs and former MPs and Provincial Executive Members) AND eleven delegates from each District Association.

When you consider the numerical influence from District delegates, which might comprise up to three-quarters of the whole ‘electoral college’, you begin to assess the importance of the Caucus’ collective sway. 

Sitting Members are not only influential, in their own right; they are the ones most capable of organizing delegate elections at the local level. 

In a nutshell, the organizational apparatus favors them.  Only if the Caucus’ loyalties are severely fractured can Ridings, which have no sitting Tory Member, really count.  In such a circumstance, Frank Coleman would not be courted at all.

Frank Coleman has the Caucus united around him.  The Race is over.

Only Bill Barry stands in the way of unanimity. Sean Skinner can perform these calculations. My guess: you won’t hear from him.

That said, no one should be foolish enough to ask Bill Barry or Sean Skinner to step aside. The Tory Party needs some constructive tension, a period of serious public policy debate; it needs an opportunity to breathe following not one but two suffocating Leaders.

Besides, the public needs to know what Frank Coleman stands for.

All that said, in the absence of any more surprises, and based on the math, you had best get your bunting unpacked. 

All Hail: Premier Frank Coleman.