Greg Mercer announces challenge to Gerry Byrne

It looks like some provincial Liberals in Newfoundland are trying to dump one of their own federal MPs. As Here & Now reported last week, MP Gerry Byrne is facing a challenge for the party's nomination in Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte.

On Monday, that challenge became official. Greg Mercer announced he wants to be the Liberal candidate in the next election. Mercer's got some heavyweight support, enough that there are questions about a push to get rid of Byrne.

Greg Mercer's a new political face. But some old, influential faces were out on Monday as he announced he was trying to replace Gerry Byrne as the federal Liberal on the West Coast.

Among those in attendance were lifelong Liberals, backroom boys, even Gerry Byrne's former executive assistant, who's now running Greg Mercer's campaign.

In the midst of good old political campaigning Mercer admits he did get encouragement from the provincial Liberals. "I think it's a reflection of their frustration, of the inability to work constructively with the current MP," said Mercer.

It was over the Marine Atlantic ferry that things really fell apart between Gerry Byrne and the provincial Liberals. For the province it was Chuck Furey on the attack. "Gerry Byrne is a child in traffic," said Furey in June 3, 1999, "I never hear from him, except when he's commenting on provincial issues."

On Monday, Furey denied the provincial Liberals are out to get Byrne. "That's self-serving paranoia by someone sleepwalking through a cemetery at 3 o'clock in the morning," said Furey, "It's just complete foolishness and nonsense."

Gerry Byrne wasn't available for comment, but last week he said the provincial party wouldn't dare organize against him.

It'll all be decided in a week, when Liberals will vote for the man they want to be their candidate when the federal election is called. It's a process that could favour Gerry Byrne, the present MP. Only people who were party members 3 months ago can vote.