Corner Brook businessman Bill Barry has taken his name out of the running for Newfoundland and Labrador's PC leadership, virtually ensuring Frank Coleman will become the province's next premier.
"My heart is no longer in this process," Barry said in an emailed statement early Thursday.
He acknowledged he had no success winning endorsements from key party insiders.
"During recent weeks and the announcements by eight cabinet ministers that I could not be considered as a possible choice to lead any of them, calls into question why I would continue," Barry wrote.
"As of now, not a single member of caucus has seen fit to place support in my direction."
Barry said while some of his problems were self-inflicted, others were beyond his control. "It's less than interesting for me to play against a stacked deck," he wrote.
Barry, who runs the Barry Group of Companies, was the first to enter the PC leadership race in the wake of Kathy Dunderdale's resignation as premier. Tom Marshall has been serving as premier since then, but has indicated he will retire before the next election.
Barry positioned himself from the start as a political outsider, and was openly critical about what he called business-as-usual at Confederation Building. "If it's a bucket of s-h-i-t, most of them wouldn't know it if you hauled it down over the heads," he had said. He later apologized for the remark, calling it "a Billism" that was indicative of his style.
Barry also drew fire from former premier Danny Williams, who made waves in February by saying Barry was not suitable to lead the province. Williams, whom insiders have linked to Coleman, refused to endorse any candidate, but insisted he could not support Barry.
'Sincere message not well received'
In his statement on Thursday, Barry said his style appeared to rub party insiders the wrong way.
"I have always stated that the message is more important than the job. However, I have reached the conclusion that my sincere message is not well received," he said.
"Again, it's simply possible that my delivery does not match what people are accustomed to, or my message of concern for our future appears to fly in the face of many recent policy decisions."
There had been three contenders for the PC leadership when nominations closed last month.
However, a party committee two weeks ago kicked out Howley councillor Wayne Bennett after deeming some of his Twitter messages to be racist. They also ruled he was undermining the party he wanted to lead by throwing his support behind NDP candidate Sheilagh O'Leary in the Virginia Waters byelection.
Bennett, meanwhile, tweeted on Thursday that he still considers himself a contender for the leadership. He said he is pursuing a court injunction against the decision to remove his name from the ballot.
Tommy Williams, a co-chair of the PC leadership convention, said Tory organizers will no doubt be meeting to discuss Barry's decision and what it means for a leadership convention scheduled for early July.
"Certainly [it will not be] a contested convention," said Williams.
Williams said while the party is still undergoing a renewal process, Barry's decision shines a light on what it means to become leader of a governing party.
"What this really does is bring to everybody's attention that this is a very onerous task, an onerous job that somebody is taking on," he said. "I respect Mr. Barry's decision. He's obviously given it a lot of thought."
Coleman wants to 'earn the trust' of province
In a statement, Coleman thanked Barry for entering the PC leadership race as a candidate.
With Barry's withdrawal from the race, Coleman is expected to be the province's next premier.
Coleman said in a statement that he plans to work hard to gain the trust of the people by the next provincial election.
"While the circumstances of how I will become leader and premier have changed, I am no less humbled by taking on this very important role at a very critical time in our history," said Coleman.
"I want to earn the trust, respect and support of the PC Party and the people of this province. I will spend every day between now and the next provincial election demonstrating that it is the PC Party, with me as its leader, that offers the best choice for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."
Premier Marshall said in a statement Thursday the party executive would meet in the next 24 hours to determine the next steps in the leadership process.
"I am disappointed that Mr. Barry has come to this decision. We were looking forward to a full and contested leadership race," said Marshall.
"Both Mr. Barry and Mr. Coleman were great candidates, and I wish Mr. Barry well."
The full text of Barry's statement is below.
Bill Barry's statement
After serious personal reflection I have decided to remove myself from the leadership race for the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. My reasons are as follows.
1. After a rocky start some of it self inflicted; my access to inner party support was placed in question.
2. During recent weeks and the announcements by 8 cabinet ministers that I could not be considered as a possible choice to lead any of them calls into question why I would continue. As of now not a single member of caucus has seen fit to place support in my direction. I am encouraged to continue but I have to ask ...Why would I and why am I being encouraged?
3. I have always stated that the message is more important than the job however I have reached the conclusion that my sincere message is not well received. . Again its simply possible that my delivery does not match what people are accustomed to or my message of concern for our future appears to fly in the face of many recent policy decisions. I fully stand behind all my stated positions as a candidate.
In any event I find it difficult to have many wonderful people offering me daily support and encouragement when the final outcome is preordained. Its less than interesting for me to play against a stacked deck. In private business I could always affect my own odds and I choose this engagement after my short political experience.
Bottom line; my heart is no longer in this process. I am NOT a status quo guy. Change; renewal and reality need to be the basis of our future Provincial agenda.
My plans are simple: return to my private business life investing in Newfoundland and Labrador as my family has done for over 100 years. I wish Frank and all Party leaders well as you confront the road ahead.
As usual I will always have strong opinions ....am available to share anytime. My views will hopefully stay non-political and be based on common sense and experience. The way I see it.
Happy Easter and thank you all for your kindness respect and generosity of time.