Bennett plans comeback in Liberal ranks
The man ousted last spring as leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal party is preparing to make a political comeback.
Jim Bennett, who resigned as party leader last May after weeks of rancour over his leadership style, wants to represent the Liberals in St. Barbe district in the fall general election.
"I don't think I will have any difficulty getting along with any caucus member," said Bennett, an unelected lawyer who was acclaimed as party leader in February 2006, but served only three months in the position.
Bennett quit amid reports of a caucus revolt over what was described as an abrasive style.
Bennett said he is not concerned about hurt feelings.
"The caucus we will be dealing with in a year's time— there will probably will be some changes. Also, I wouldn't be in the position of leader and I would be in the position of being elected from my own district."
Gerry Reid, who took over the party's leadership last May in the wake of Bennett's departure, has said the internal squabbles of the preceding months helped sink theLiberals' standings in public opinion polls.
Bennett noticeably irritated other caucus members, sometimes in public—bymaking a controversial call fora two-tiered minimum wage that would allow for a lower wage for teenagers, for instance— and more often behind closed doors.
Unlike some other nomination races leading to the Oct. 9 general election, St. Barbe is among a group of districts where nomination meetings have been pushed back until May.
Sources tell CBC News that some Liberal members simply do not want Bennett on the slate, and are trying to find someone to beat him in the nomination race.
Bennett said he is flattered if that is the case.
"If some people perceive me as someone who needs to be challenged, then that's probably a very good thing," he said.
"It's better to be challenged politically than to be ignored."
Ralph Payne, who was defeated in St. Barbe in the last election, intends to run again for the nomination.
However, Danny Dumaresque, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party, denied that there is a rift within the party.
"There's no secret we lost the election because we didn't have as many votes as the [Progressive] Conservative party," he said.
"We want them back and we embrace one and all who shall come forward either to be a candidate, or to help us make sure we win the most seats."