Can Ches Crosbie connect? Lawyer soft launching bid for PC leadership

St. John's lawyer Ches Crosbie will "soft launch" his campaign as early as this week, CBC News has learned.

Official start of leadership still at least 4 months away

Sources tell CBC News lawyer Ches Crosbie will soft launch his campaign for the PC leadership as early as this week with a provincial tour (CBC)

After months of saying he was considering the leadership fo the Progressive Conservative Party, Ches Crosbie will stage a soft launch of his campaign as early as this week, CBC News has learned.

Crosbie started organizing behind the scene after Paul Davis announced in October that he will step down as leader, when the party chooses his successor.

Crosbie is a St. John's lawyer who made his mark through high profile class action lawsuits over moose vehicle accidents, breast cancer testing, video lottery terminals and residential schools

Sources tell CBC News that Crosbie will go on a "listening tour" of Newfoundland and Labrador in advance of the formal start of campaigning.

It will likely be months before any official campaigning begins. 

Tory race not expected any time soon

The party is revamping its leadership rules, and party president Graydon Pelley has told the executive the he wants a special meeting to vote on those rules early in June.

If the rules are adopted then, the earliest possible leadership vote would be in the fall. However, the party could decide to wait until the spring of 2018.

The Liberals gave members and supporters a direct vote in choosing the party's leader in 2013, when Dwight Ball won a five-way leadership contest.

That campaign helped the Liberals sign up of tens of thousands of new supporters, and galvanazed the base heading into the 2015 election, when the Grits took back power from the Tories.

Party president Graydon Pelley said there's consensus that the party needs to scrap a traditional delegated convention (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Pelley said after consulting members, it's clear the rules need to change to give more individual Tories a greater say in who becomes leader.

In a letter sent to the party executive, Pelley said the new leader needs to be in place with enough time to build to the next election, set for the fall of 2019.

"We … recognize there is an urgent need to move quickly to complete the amendments so that the leadership selection process can start and enable potential candidates to be aware of the process before the start of their campaigns," Pelley wrote in the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by CBC.

For people considering a run for the leadership, the rules around spending, and who gets to vote, could be key to deciding whether they get in to the race.

PC MHA Steve Kent came third in the last PC leadership race, he's said he's interested in running for the job again. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Mount Pearl North MHA Steve Kent, who ran for the PC leadership in 2015, said he's strongly considering a run.

Insiders wonder whether Crosbie can connect

Crosbie is the son of Tory legend John Crosbie, whose career started on St. John's city council and included high-profile stints in both the provincial and federal cabinets. He also served as Newfoundland and Labrador's lieutenant-governor.

Ches Crosbie tried for the federal Conservative nomination in the riding of Avalon in the last federal election but was rejected by the party.

Sources close to the campaign believe the former Rhodes scholar has the intelligence for the job, but the tour will be a test to see whether he can make the personal connection with the public required to win.

The campaign would also boost his profile in the party against better-known contenders, like Kent, a former cabinet minister who has held a seat in the House of Assembly since 2007. 

About the Author

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.