Along the trail

Brandon Anstey
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Bill Barry makes a stop in Gander

The race for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party is heating up, and candidate Bill Barry made a visit to Gander last week to meet with the public, and to talk about the basis of his campaign.

CREATING CHANGE – Bill Barry announced in January he would be running for the top spot in the Progressive Conservative Party. Last week, he stopped in Gander along the campaign trail to meet with the public for a political discussion.

It was in January when Barry announced he would be running for the party’s top position, and according to him, it wasn’t a decision based on impulse.

“This is an obvious interesting journey for me,” Barry told a group of people at the Albatross Hotel on April 1. “When Kathy Dunderdale stepped down, it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. I decided I would offer myself a year before I actually did it.”

The 61 year-old leadership candidate has spent a lifetime involved in the fishing industry through the family business, and demonstrated a keen knowledge about the history of politics in Newfoundland and Labrador. Barry wasn’t shy about his opinions as he talked about the evolution of the political playing field throughout the history of the province. The history lesson was a just a preliminary discussion that led up to his views on the way government currently operates, as he shared concerns about mismanagement and overspending.

“We’re running a budget with a deficit every year; we couldn’t balance the books,” said Barry. “We find ourselves in a position where we’ve expanded the government way beyond what it should have been expanded.”

Sustaining the province’s economic future is a main concern of the Corner Brook businessman. According to Barry, government should cut back on spending, and look to new horizons to ensure the province has a healthy economy into the future.

“We’re not mindful of our capabilities as a province. If we had lots of cash, we’d be good to go. We are going all in. They roughly know how much oil will be pumped, but don’t know what the price will be, or what the exchange rate is going to be. These are all things you have to consider when you have oil-based revenue. As you replace offshore oil, where will the revenue be?”

Creating a dynamic government that looks at all angles is where he hopes to lead the PC Party.

“We have to keep in mind what we are capable of a s a society in terms of our investments and budgetary process,” he said. “We need to identify the issues that will make a real difference in our society, if we are successfully dealing with them, or if we don’t deal with them at all. The demographic issues are enormous. It’s the outcomes that should determine the direction of not only the debate but also of the policy change.”

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding past governments, and the province’s political yard is in serious need of landscaping, said Barry.

“I think political life needs a different dynamic than the one we’ve had. Political life needs someone who’s going to be engaged with our society to not only discuss people’s idea about change but also to listen to their ideas about where they think we should be as a province.”

While he’s running for the PC Party, the role of leader extends beyond political parties, said the leadership candidate.

“We talk about the political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “It’s not about blue and red. It’s not about painting a blue ship red or a red ship blue; it’s about leadership. The tone of our governments historically has been about strong leaders. We need dynamic leaders that have some good ideas, and are there totally for the benefit of the outcomes for our society. The message is more important than the job. I don’t want to see us be a have-not province again.”

So far, the Corner Brook businessman has welcomed the response to his message.

“I’d have to say that the people that I meet are reasonably receptive to the things that I’m saying,” said Barry. “I think the message that I give creates some concern, but I’m not fear mongering. I’m actually saying we have a tremendous province with the potential for a tremendous future, but we have to live within our means and create policies so that our society can function well.”

A new leader for the PC Party will be chosen in July at the party’s convention when Barry faces off with Frank Coleman for the leadership role.

A third candidate was in the race until last week when the PC Party rules committee disqualified Wayne Bennett for racially insensitive postings on Twitter and an endorsement of the NDP candidate in the upcoming Virginia Waters byelection.

Bennett told The Beacon’s sister paper, The Telegram, last Thursday he plans to appeal the ruling and, if necessary, he’ll go to court to stay in the leadership contest.

“There was no procedural fairness. I never got a chance to file a defence,” he said.

“Our next step is to seek an injunction in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador to have this decision overturned based on the grounds of procedural fairness.”

— With files from The Telegram



Organizations: PC Party, Albatross Hotel, NDP Supreme Court

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Gander, Corner Brook

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