In one of his final duties as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Tom Marshall tipped his hat to government employees in a farewell speech at Confederation Building on Friday.

Marshall will be wrapping up his premiership, as a Progressive Conservative leadership convention is set to take place on Saturday.

He started off his speech with a joke about a fake news alert that all three candidates in the PC leadership race have withdrawn. "Oh, no," said Marshall, referring to how Frank Coleman's abrupt departure in June meant that Marshall needed to further delay his retirement.

Marshall asked to meet with public servants on Friday, on the eve of the Progressive Conservative leadership convention in St. John's. Delegates will choose between Paul Davis, Steve Kent and John Ottenheimer. 

'Public service forms that critical structure'

Marshall said without public service employees, government would be unable to function on the level it needs to.

"Contractors often talk about load-bearing walls in a building. They are, of course, the portion of the building that's essential to hold up the weight and they do the critical work of ensuring that the rest of the structure can be walled in and furnished, painted, decorated, and presented to the world as a finished product," said Marshall.

"You don't notice those walls too much, and they're not often acknowledged as an outstanding feature of the building, but they are absolutely critical of the function and form of all buildings. And in the structure of government, the public service forms that critical structure."

Marshall said one of the common sights at Confederation Building was a retirement party, celebrating someone's departure, which he said was bittersweet.

"I saw all that wisdom and all that knowledge and all that professionalism going out the door, and it's sad — nobody seemed to care. So I said, maybe I'll fool up the pension plans to try to figure out a way to make them stay," he joked.

Poised to step down in days

He said he wanted to thank the public service workers on behalf of all of Newfoundland and Labrador, while he was still in a position to do so.

Marshall was sworn in as the 11th premier of Newfoundland and Labrador in January, following an announcement from Kathy Dunderdale that she would be stepping down from the role.

He was set to step down earlier in the summer, allowing Coleman to become the 12th premier, but Coleman announced in June he would be unable to take over the job due to a serious medical issue in his family.

Marshall plans to step down as premier and resign as MHA for Humber East once the party chooses a new leader.