Veteran MHA Tom Osborne announced on Thursday that he's joined the provincial Liberal Party.

The former independent MHA and long-time Tory made the announcement in the Shea Heights Community Centre before a room of supporters, Liberal caucus members and family.

Interim Liberal leader Eddie Joyce attended the event, and said Osborne will be a great asset.

"I mean, having Tom Osborne in our caucus, the longest-serving member in the house of assembly ... with his experience as a minister and a great constituency man. It's nothing but great news for the Liberal caucus," said Joyce.

Osborne and Joyce both said they expect there will be more Liberals MHAs on the Northeast Avalon after the 2013 election.

Osborne was a member of Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservative party until September 2012 when he quit the caucus, citing a lack of confidence in the leadership of Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Since then, he has sat in the house of assembly as an independent, representing the district of St. John's South.

Osborne was in the Conservative cabinet from 2003 to 2007 overseeing several portfolios, including environment, health and justice, before being shuffled out after the 2007 general election.

Speculation ran wild

On Wednesday, NDP MP Ryan Cleary tweeted a photo that he had taken with Osborne, suggesting he would join the New Democratic Party.

Osborne said he's had discussions with the provincial NDP and the Liberals over the course of the last 12 months, but neither made offers.

"I was seriously considering both parties — and last week I took a very strong look at the NDP. In part, because some constituents said, 'They've got some popularity in the St. John's area now, you should go with them, you'd be guaranteed re-election.' And obviously if you want to serve your district to the best of your ability, you've got to be elected first. So that did deserve due consideration."

In an interview with CBC Radio Noon on Thursday, Osborne said he consulted with his constituents through a newsletter. 

"I took every opportunity to ask constituents which way they felt I should go," said Osborne.

"I got a great deal of feedback. It's not the first time in Newfoundland or Canadian politics that somone has switched parties. I believe to sit as an independent, there's no doubt, I can still sit as a representative — but [with the Liberals] you have the resources of the party ... the team aspect, you're much better able to represent the district you serve — than as an independent."

Liberals welcome Osborne

In a statement, Liberal Party president Judy Morrow said the party is pleased to welcome Osborne.

"This solidifies the momentum the Liberal Party has been gaining over the last year," said Morrow.

"Mr. Osborne brings a wealth of experience and we look forward [to] working with him to hold the provincial government accountable to people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Morrow added: "We would like to thank the people of St. John’s South for contributing to this decision and the confidence they have placed in the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. Their values coincide with the Party’s values and we look forward to working with the residents of the District as we move forward."

The new standings in the legislature will be 36 Tories, seven Liberals and five New Democrats.

Osborne has represented the district of St. John's South since 1996.