Aylward needs to quit now, former minister says
- Aylward took over Liberal leadership in August, after Yvonne Jones stepped aside
- Aylward is the party's fifth leader in six years
Kevin Aylward would help Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal party by resigning as leader, a former cabinet minister said Wednesday.
Aylward lost his own race in St. George's-Stephenville East Tuesday night, but led a campaign that delivered six seats - enough to form the next Opposition, even though the NDP received more votes.
But Chris Decker, a former minister in the Clyde Wells government, said Aylward needs to resign now as leader to set the stage for rebuilding, and to ensure the party holds on to Opposition status.
"All of us Liberals owe Kevin a tremendous debt. What he did for the party was absolutely outstanding," Decker said while participating in an episode of CBC Radio's Crosstalk on Aylward's future.
"[But] my advice to Kevin would be to step aside."
Decker said the party can not afford to take the risk of having a caucus member resign a seat in order to trigger a byelection.
For one thing, Decker said, the Liberals would lose Opposition status, as they would then be tied with the NDP at five seats each.
As well, Decker said, Tuesday's election showed that the Liberals cannot count on voters in any particular district.
"There are no winnable seats," said Decker, pointing to the NDP's win in The Straits-White Bay North, the former Liberal stronghold that Decker represented for 14 years.
"That was thought to be the safest place on Earth, and we've proven that's not the case ... The risk to the party is just too great."
Aylward took over the reins of the Liberal party in August, shortly after former leader Yvonne Jones stepped aside to recover from treatment for breast cancer.
Jones, who has retained the title of Opposition leader, was re-elected in Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.
After conceding on Tuesday night, Aylward said he had no immediate plans to resign, but suggested he will not be clinging to the position.
"My own future will be decided later on," he said.
"When I went into this, it was about keeping the Liberal party alive during this election, and we've come out of this very, very well."
The Liberals finished the election with about 19 per cent of the total vote - several points ahead of campaign polling that reflected the party's struggles.
"We need now to give people breathing space, give people some time, and the executive board of the party's got to start making decisions," said former Liberal cabinet minister John Efford, who added that he regretted making comments in the past that had been perceived as wanting former leader Jones out of the job.
"Anything that we have to object [to], we do it on the inside, not the outside," Efford said.
Jones is the only incumbent returning to the Liberal caucus, which will include another former leader. Jim Bennett, a lawyer who lasted only a few months in the position in 2006, was elected in St. Barbe.
The caucus also includes former MHAs Eddie Joyce and Dwight Ball, who regained their old seats of Bay of Islands and Humber Valley, respectively.