Bill Barry: Tories mired in mess on economy, democracy
Bill Barry, the Corner Brook businessman who cut short his bid to become Newfoundland and Labrador's premier, says he regrets the fact that Frank Coleman is entering the premier's office without a challenge.
Barry declined a request from CBC News to respond to former lieutenant-governor John Crosbie's withering criticism of how the governing Progressive Conservatives are installing Coleman, a successful businessman but a political neophyte, as their leader next month.
But in a written statement, Barry criticized the Tory government for how the province's finances have been managed.
"From my own personal perspective I regret the outcome of the process I entered into. However I feel it serves neither myself, the party or those in political life generally for me to comment further on my personal situation," said Barry, who shut down his leadership bid in April after complaining that he was up against a "stacked deck" with not a single member of caucus willing to stand with him against Coleman.
We should never be too proud of our 'growth' when it's all a result of debt and government investment in megaprojects on our behalf- Bill Barry
"[But] my biggest concern for our Province and its people is I see no debate on what constitutes a legitimate leadership process ... we should all be concerned as taxpayers and hold our elected officials accountable to action and transparency. Our economy needs diversity and private investment. No part more than the fishery," wrote Barry, who runs the Barry Group of Companies and is one of the key players in Newfoundland and Labrador's seafood industry.
"We should never be too proud of our 'growth' when it's all a result of debt and government investment in megaprojects on our behalf. Our economy runs red hot in such a process and many outside the 'energy world' are being priced out of existence."
Crosbie, a former provincial and federal cabinet minister who played a key role in Tory politics for decades, lambasted the Tories because no one in the current government stepped forward as a candidate.
Crosbie blamed former premier Danny Williams for putting pressure on prospective candidates, to clear the way for Coleman's path to the premier's office. Williams, in a statement Monday, rejected the claim as false, and said that he was "at a loss" to understand Crosbie's remarks.
While Williams did not publicly endorse Coleman or any other candidate, he made a point this winter of emphasizing that Barry was unsuitable as a possible premier.
'Nothing further from the truth'
Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent, reacting to an interview Crosbie did with CBC's Radio Noon on Monday, denied Crosbie's allegations that Williams pressured other candidates.
"Danny offered words of encouragement, which I certainly very much appreciated."
Kent said he has no regrets about not pursuing a leadership bid.
"At this point in time, having Frank Coleman's skills and experience and character and vision leading our party is the right way forward," Kent said.