Paul Lane departure shocks Tory caucus
Backbencher Ray Hunter says 'no comment' when asked about Kathy Dunderdale's leadership
Members of Newfoundland and Labrador's governing Progressive Conservatives say they were blindsided by Mount Pearl South MHA Paul Lane's defection to the Liberals.
"I'm surprised. I didn't see it coming," said Lewisporte representative Wade Verge, reacting to Lane's announcement Monday to leave the Tory caucus in favour of the Liberals.
Lane, a rookie elected in 2011, chaired the PC caucus at the legislature and was frequently the Tories' point man for media interviews on government policies, appearing frequently on news programs.
Contacted by CBC News, numerous members of the Tory caucus say they had no knowledge that Lane was unhappy with the government's performance in general and Premier Kathy Dunderdale's leadership in particular. Lane blasted Dunderdale for being out of touch with constituents' concerns, and for failing to respond promptly to important issues, most recently the island-wide blackout.
Harbour Main MHA Tom Hedderson said Lane had told him nothing of his thoughts about Dunderdale.
"Obviously I'm parliamentary assistant to the premier and fully supportive of her leadership, as is the caucus and the cabinet," Hedderson said in an interview.
"That's why it was a bit of a surprise to see one of the caucus members at this particular time do what he did."
But not all caucus members were quick to announce their support for Dunderdale.
Hunter said Lane's defection is not the end of the story, and that more will be heard in the next couple of weeks.
As to whether he intends to follow Lane across the floor, Hunter again refused to comment.
Lane's defection to the Liberals is expected to be the core subject of a caucus meeting scheduled for Wednesday. Dunderdale's office said the premier is cutting short her vacation to attend the meeting.
'Politics is a strange, strange game'
Several MHAs say they cannot believe that Lane will not be at that caucus meeting.
Glenn Littlejohn, who represents Port de Grave, said Lane's decision was startling because he had been remarkably loyal to the party.
"I hold no malice toward of Paul or anybody who decides do what they have to do," Littlejohn said.
Humber West MHA Vaughn Granter, in an email to CBC News, said Lane's decision was his alone to make, and that "he will be judged by the constituents he represents" in the next election.
"However, on a lighter side, I will be interested in the topic of choice for his first question in question period," Granter added.