NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR 2007

Parties & Leaders

Gerry Reid

MHA Twillingate-Fogo   External link opens in a new windowThe Liberal Party of N.L.
CBC Online News | Updated Sep 4, 2007
 
Liberal Leader Gerry Reid

Guiding the Liberal party into the 2007 election campaign is an assignment Gerry Reid once tried to refuse.

In May 2005, just a day after former premier Roger Grimes announced his retirement from public life, Reid took on the interim leadership of the party, and the duties of the leader of the Opposition.

Reid was an obvious choice for the job. Having held fisheries and education portfolios in past Liberal governments, he brought experience and stature to the post.

One issue, however, was outstanding: Reid didn't want the job, at least not on a permanent basis.

"I know what the job entails," he told CBC News in January 2006, "and I just think at this time it's not the right time for me."

Circumstances, however, brought Reid back into the leader's chair. Jim Bennett, a lawyer who ran unopposed for the Liberal leadership, clashed with other members of the opposition caucus - including Reid himself - and resigned a few months after taking over.

"I had different thoughts about it," Reid said in May 2006, while explaining his turnabout. "In recent months, I feel much more comfortable in that position."

Reid said his main mission has been "taking down the Tory government," although he was the first to admit that internal troubles within his party were holding the Liberals back, particularly amid public opinion polls that showed overwhelming support for Premier Danny Williams and the governing Progressive Conservatives.

As Opposition leader, Reid has been able to quell internal problems and shown greater focus during question period at the house of assembly. Questions on some issues, particularly the government handling of an untendered contract over a fibre-optic network, brought out testiness on the government side.

Reid did not wait for the formal start of the campaign to unveil policy changes. In recent months, he has released platform planks designed to appeal to middle- and low-income families, and has criticized the Tories for favouring the rich. Among other things, Reid has promised that a Liberal government would cut personal income taxes for those groups and reduce home-heating costs.

A teacher, Reid, 53, has spent almost all of his adult life somehow involved in politics. He got the bug at Memorial University, where he was president of the campus Liberal association.

In 1989, when Clyde Wells led the Liberals to victory, Reid moved full time into the political arena, working as executive assistant to fisheries ministers Walter Carter and Bud Hulan.

By 1996, Reid was ready to test electoral waters himself, successfully challenging his former boss Carter for the nomination in Twillingate and Fogo. He has represented the district since then.

Reid has provided a study in contrasts to Williams, both inside the house of assembly and elsewhere. Where Williams is fiery and given to showmanship, Reid prefers a steady demeanour and low-key style.

A symbol of that contrast in style was on display in July, when Williams brought a campaign-style edge to a community festival in Twillingate. Williams waved to crowds from the massive recreational vehicle he used in the 2003 election campaign. Reid, meanwhile, was further back in the parade - driving a car.

Reid took being overshadowed in stride. "I guess he's got more money than I have," he shrugged.

For this election campaign, Reid will be hoping voters will look past the flash to concentrate on the substance.

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Quick Facts

Born:June 18, 1954, in Carbonear.

Education: BA, B.Ed., M.Phil. from Memorial University.

Before politics: A teacher, Reid also served as a town councillor in Summerford. He worked for seven years as a political aide before running himself.

Political career: MHA Twillingate and Fogo since 1996. Served in Liberal cabinets in fisheries and aquaculture and education portfolios.

Family: Married to wife Cathy. Two sons: Matthew and Lucas.

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