Local mayors comment on Kennedy’s decision
The mayors in MHA Jerome Kennedy’s district of Carbonear-Harbour Grace are disappointed he will not be seeking the leadership of the provincial Tories, but can understand the rationale behind his decision.
Kennedy, who is also the minister of Health and Community Services, announced on Dec. 22 he would not be running for the leadership post because of the strains it would place on his family.
“I have to respect his reasons for it,” says Mayor Don Coombs of Harbour Grace, adding Kennedy has done a great job for the district since entering politics in 2007.
“ I was kind of hoping he would (run),” adds Coombs’ counterpart in Carbonear, Mayor Sam Slade, who agrees that Kennedy has represented the district well.
“It would have meant great things for the area and the province as a whole.”
Coombs agrees that having a premier representing the district would have been a boon for his community.
As for Kennedy’s chances to win had he run, both Coombs and Slade say he could have won.
“I think he was the front-runner,” says Coombs, who believes that was the case from the moment former premier Danny Williams announced he was stepping down after seven years in office.
Kennedy has served as a high profile cabinet minister since leaving his career as a St. John’s defence lawyer, first handling the justice portfolio before moving into finance and health. Since then, he has been in the middle of some heated exchanges, most recently with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association over doctor contracts.
It may be said in some circles that Kennedy’s provincial profile took a beating during the battle with doctors, but Slade does not believe those events hurt the health minister’s reputation.
“I think a lot of people are very happy and content that it’s finally over with,” he says of the dispute with doctors, which had been settled by a vote
Carbonear-Harbour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy
the day before Kennedy’s announcement.
Both mayors expect interim Premier Kathy Dunderdale will be the candidate for the Progressive Conservative party in next fall’s provincial election, with Coombs believing she will run uncontested for the Tory leadership. Premier Dunderdale was expected to officially announce her candidacy on Dec. 30.
Such thought gained credence following decisions by Kennedy, Education Minister Darin King and Finance Minister Tom Marshall — three of the most powerful cabinet ministers in the government — to throw their support behind Dunderdale. Minister King, like his counterpart in heath, also cited family concerns as his main reason for not running.
“As you get in any level of politics, you understand that family decisions are very important, and I fully respect his decision and wish him the best of luck,” says Coombs.
“ When you put yourself out there, there is a commitment, and family has to come first,” adds Slade. “ You’re not only putting yourself out in that position to be out there all the time, but you’re also putting your family out there.”
Kennedy told the media on Dec. 22 he will seek re-election in the Carbonear-Harbour Grace district in this fall’s provincial election.
The Tories are expected to hold a leadership convention in the spring.