Davis says he’s a different sort of leader
Credits teamwork for past year’s successes
When Premier Paul Davis sat down with The Compass last week in Placentia for his first interview about this past year, it was not all business.
The leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives began the conversation beaming about his nephew, local man Robert Slaney. Slaney, who is a native of Upper Island Cove, previously played professional hockey in the American Hockey League and recently began medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
It’s a side of Davis that isn’t usually apparent when he’s in front of a camera or behind a microphone.
Although the casual conversation was short, Davis was quick to mention that family is important to him, and his reference to Slaney was just a small piece of a much larger puzzle.
That family connection is where becoming Premier had its start.
Deciding to run
He met with his wife Cheryl and others to discuss the idea of running for leader of the PCs last June. It was something they didn’t take lightly.
“One of the discussions Cheryl, my close family and friends had was what would life be like and what’s the impact on family, and also the impact on me,” he explained.
Once determining that changes would take place and he would have to adapt to a new job role, everyone was on board.
“We knew it was going to be a gruelling pace,” he explained. “We knew it was going to be constant pressure. We knew that we were going to have to deal with matters that we didn’t want to have to deal with. Not everything is good. You deal with things where the circumstances are not always wonderful, great stories, but also challenges.”
It was after he was chosen as PC leader and the newest premier of the province that things began to feel real.
Coincidentally, the Placentia Bay Industrial Showcase was the first event he attended last year as premier. It was also where he met with The Compass last Wednesday.
“Oh yeah, it’s been a year,” Davis laughed.
Davis stepping into the premier’s role was a steady progression. He began his journey as a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer and took on board positions with different organizations and agencies.
He ran for council in Conception Bay South and eventually became the deputy mayor. After several years on council, Davis decided to try his hand at provincial politics, and won the Topsail seat in a 2010 byelection.
With each step, Davis had to develop a thicker skin.
“You have to grow one (in training as a police officer) because once you get out into the real world you better have that thick skin to be able to take some of those things that happen to you,” he explained.
Once he entered municipal and provincial politics, he began develop a different kind of thick skin. He explained there are times when people attack politicians and their character publicly, on social media and even to their faces. But it’s something he has become used to over the years and he’s learned to not let things get to him.
Year of change
After Davis was sworn in as premier, he decided to take what he considered an unconventional approach to leadership.
“I think that my approach to leadership is different from any we’ve ever had in the history of the province,” he explained.
One of the things he prides himself on is involving his caucus in different decisions and committees based on their personal knowledge. Even if they are not the minister of a certain department, Davis takes input from everyone that sits in his governing party.
“Members of caucus that I know have expertise or backgrounds, I’ll call them and say, ‘What do you think of this?’”
Challenges are something all leaders must face, and for Davis, he’s had his fair share.
This past year has been a difficult one in terms of oil revenues, and Davis admits he’s been taking a pretty big hit because of it.
“Oil prices have probably been the biggest impact overall. And some people that say, 'What are you doing about oil prices?' Well, we don’t control oil prices. There’s nobody in the province that controls oil prices,” he said.
Although he takes a lot of slack for the oil prices, he reminds people that Waterford Valley High was one of the investments that was feasible thanks to oil funds. As was Corner Brook Intermediate, which was a former school that received a whole new look.
He also had to face a “tough budget” and has a deficit this year, but he calls it a success because the province's economy is holding strong.
With plenty of things happening in Trinity Conception, Davis is frequently making visits.
Something he sees getting stronger in the coming years is the economy of Carbonear and Harbour Grace and he wants to show his support.
“That’s the type of investments where a business owner who is thinking about opening a new restaurant and owns some land next door, says ‘I think it’s time for me now to build this new restaurant.’”
And as for the province, he doesn’t care what naysayers are preaching.
“As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians we’re very resilient,” he said. “We’ll get things done. We’re not going to become all doom and gloom. I don’t think anyone wants to subscribe to that.”
Premier Paul Davis chats with former Progressive Conservative MHA Terry French at the Placentia Bay Industrial Showcase in Placentia on Wednesday, Sept. 23.