Nfld. & Labrador

Aylward sets sights on October surprise

Kevin Aylward, who won a weekend competition to lead the Liberal party, says no one should count out the struggling Grits in the fall election.
Kevin Aylward speaks Sunday night after being chosen as the new leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal party.

Kevin Aylward, who won a hastily arranged weekend competition to lead Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal party, says no one should count out the struggling Grits in the fall election.

"We're going to have an interesting time ahead. Forty, 50 days is a long time in politics," said Aylward, a former cabinet minister who came out of political retirement to emerge as the winner of a secret ballot among 19 members of the party's executive council.

Aylward, who represented a district in Newfoundland's Bay St. George area, was a last-minute addition to a roster of seven candidates who stepped forward after Yvonne Jones stepped down as leader, citing her battle with breast cancer.

Jones introduced Aylward as the winner following a first-ballot win over other candidates.

Like Jones, Aylward said he will take aim at the Tories' plan to develop the Lower Churchill hydroelectric megaproject at Muskrat Falls.

"There's a pulse out there," said Aylward, saying opposition is mounting to the plan, which would see as much as 40 per cent of Labrador's energy exported to Nova Scotia and other markets.

"When you say electricity rates have to go up and we have no choice — I don't believe that, and we're going to have an option on the table," said Aylward.

Aylward was only 24 when he was first elected in Stephenville district in 1985. He entered cabinet in 1994, serving in various portfolios in subsequent years, including environment, forestry, agriculture and tourism. He retired from politics in 2003.

Aylward plans to represent the Liberals against Government House Leader Joan Burke in St. George's-Stephenville East in the Oct. 11 election.

Six other candidates — Brad Cabana, Danny Dumaresque, Rodney Martin, Ryan Lane, Bern Coffey and Charles Murphy — had competed for the Liberal leadership.

The Liberals did not release the results of the vote.