Kathy Dunderdale made political history Friday when she became the first woman to be sworn in as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"We have come this far together and the best is yet to come," Dunderdale told a full room of supporters at Government House in St. John's, minutes after she was sworn in to succeed Danny Williams, who announced his plans to retire last week.
Dunderdale said she will carry out the policy goals of Williams and the Progressive Conservatives until a leadership convention is held next spring.
She later told reporters, though, that she will not be running in the PC leadership campaign to select a permanent replacement.
"Never have we been more determined to succeed and never have we been more confident that we can," said Dunderdale, who had been deputy premier and natural resources minister in Williams's government.
'Until 1925, a woman could not even vote in Newfoundland and Labrador and today for the very first time in our province's history a woman serves as premier. Imagine that.' —Kathy Dunderdale
Supporters and Williams himself cheered as Dunderdale swore an oath before Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie at Government House in St. John's.
Newfoundland and Labrador's three main political parties are now all led by women. Yvonne Jones leads the Liberals, while Lorraine Michael leads the NDP.
That fact was not lost on Dunderdale, who was first elected to the house of assembly in 2003, representing the St. John's district of Virginia Waters.
"As I see my grandchildren smiling at [me] here today, I am reminded of how different life was for my own grandmother," Dunderdale said.
"Until 1925, a woman could not even vote in Newfoundland and Labrador and today for the very first time in our province's history a woman serves as premier," she said. "Imagine that."
Dunderdale said she intends to run again in the scheduled October 2011 election. She told reporters she would like to see a clean campaign for the PC leadership.
A social worker by profession, Dunderdale had been active in community, rural and municipal issues long before her election in 2003. A former deputy mayor of Burin, she was the first woman to lead the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities.
Crosbie told the audience Friday that he had no hesitation in swearing in Dunderdale, as she clearly had the support of the government.
"You are an heir to a very old and proud tradition which I know you are going to honour and cherish," Crosbie said.
"You have all your family here to witness your great success and I feel sure that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians wish you much success in the coming months."