Tories look 'desperate' after Frank Coleman episode: prof

Frank Coleman's decision to shut down his campaign to become premier only adds to the problems that the governing Tories have been trying to overcome, a political scientist says.

Former minister Trevor Taylor says grassroots PCs have become alienated with brass

Frank Coleman said an important family matter that arose over the last week led to his decision to not seek the premier's office in Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

Frank Coleman's decision to bow out as Newfoundland and Labrador's next premier only adds to the problems that the governing Tories have been trying to overcome, a Memorial University professor says. 


"It was a losing cause," said political scientist Steve Tomblin, who echoed earlier comments he made this spring after Coleman, a Corner Brook businessman who has never held any political office, was acclaimed in the PCs' last leadership race. 

"They were, I think, the walking dead, and it was a train wreck. Whether they recover now will depend on a lot of things, but it really does look desperate."

Coleman said an unspecified but deeply challenging issue affecting a member of his immediate family surfaced over the last week, prompting his decision to step away from politics. 

Tomblin, who maintains that Coleman was simply not qualified to lead the province, said he was not surprised that Coleman quit before he was set to take over as Progressive Conservative leader and premier next month. 

Coleman's decision, though, is tough news for the Tories, who have been struggling for months to win support of voters who have largely flocked to the Opposition Liberals. 

Tomblin said the Tories need to get their affairs in order as they relaunch a leadership process. 

"This is a process that is kind of changing day to day. If they have leadership, if they have policies, they really should think some of these things out," he said. 

Tomblin indicated he was somewhat skeptical about Coleman's reasons for shutting down his campaign, noting that it is common for politicians to cite family reasons when they want out of politics. 

Alienation among rank-and-file

Meanwhile, former Tory cabinet minister Trevor Taylor says firm steps need to be taken to address the alienation that rank-and-file PCs have been feeling.

Trevor Taylor, a former provincial cabinet minister, says the PCs should not rush into a leadership convention.
"There has to be a very aggressive campaign to reconnect with the grassroots of the party," he said Tuesday. "I think a lot of people have felt disillusioned, myself included, over the course of the last six months in particular."

The PC executive is poised to meet Tuesday evening to decide the next steps for a leadership process. Taylor said he hopes that indications that a new convention will be scheduled in September will not play out.

"It puts them under the gun to get ready ... but rushing the leadership [convention] might be a bit of a mistake," Taylor, who prefers a convention in late October, told the St. John's Morning Show.

"It's very much back to the drawing board for the party."

Former Liberal cabinet minister John Efford said he was not only not surprised to see Coleman halt his bid for the PC leadership, he had won a bet to that effect.

"As far as I'm concerned, the man was out of his league to come in in the first place, and unfortunately someone was pushing him and I suspect it was Danny Williams," said Efford.

"He made the correct decision yesterday."


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