Nfld. & Labrador

PC Leader Ches Crosbie stepping down as head of party

Ches Crosbie will be stepping down, and Conception Bay East-Bell Island MHA David Brazil will take over as interim leader.

David Brazil to serve as interim leader, Barry Petten as Opposition House leader

Ches Crosbie is stepping down as leader of the PC Party. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

Ches Crosbie is stepping down as leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Party.

Crosbie, announcing his departure from the party outside the House of Assembly on Wednesday, said it was an "obvious decision" to step down but he remains proud of his legacy as leader.

"I would prefer to stand before you today as premier, announcing a dramatic plan of action to get our people back to work, but instead, my legacy of public service is that the PC party and caucus is united and unified in its resolve to revitalize our wounded democracy and to hold the Liberal government to account," he said.

"I do believe that we put together an election campaign that we can hold our heads high and be proud of.… We all like to have the feeling that we leave things, I think, better off than the way we found them, and I believe I can lay claim to that."

Conception Bay East-Bell Island MHA David Brazil will take over as interim leader.

Crosbie told media he believes there will be legal action regarding the election, but he's not sure where it will come from. 

"I do think the process was disgraceful in many respects. It deserves to be investigated and the irregularities around it, particularly having many people have the door to voting slammed shut in their faces the way it was," he said.

"That needs to be looked into and people's legal rights vindicated in court, and I'm talking about the voters, because the problem with this last election is that the real loser was the voter."

Crosbie confirmed, however, that he won't challenge the outcome of the vote in his former district of Windsor Lake.

David Brazil will now serve as interim leader of the PC party. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Brazil thanked Crosbie for his work as party and opposition leader and called him "a brilliant and compassionate individual."

He said he's now prepared to lead and ready the party for the new leader.

"I've had a very successful and storied career in politics. It's not over yet, but at the end of the day, I think my energy and my talents are better fit right now … helping the PC party get to the next level," Brazil said.

"I look forward to continuing to build upon Ches's work in the House of Assembly until a new leader is chosen for the party."

It's not clear when the PCs will choose their new permanent leader, but Brazil said he'll be interim leader for "a year or two, whatever it takes," and won't run for the leadership.

The interim leader didn't commit to challenging the election in court, but said the party "will have much more to say about the election and the electoral process in the coming weeks."

Brazil also expects the House of Assembly will open around April 19. Barry Petten will serve as the party's Opposition House leader.

Crosbie unseated

The departure comes after Crosbie failed to reclaim his seat last week, with voters turning instead to Liberal candidate John Hogan.

Crosbie, who did not hold a public event after election results were released Saturday, released a pre-recorded statement to media saying he would "take a few days" to speak with his caucus and family to determine "where we go from here."

He thanked the voters of Windsor Lake for the opportunity to represent them. 

Crosbie said Wednesday that Hogan and the Liberals were well organized in the district, but he said the unusual, extended campaign changed public perception of the premier throughout the election.

"Had the vote been last week, this week, the outcome may well have been, probably would have been, different."

Crosbie, a lawyer and the son of late politician John Crosbie, has led the PCs since 2018, when he was elected head of the party without holding a seat.

He later claimed the Windsor Lake district in a byelection and was voted in again by constituents in the 2019 general election.

As for Crosbie's future, he said he's not expecting to return to law but looks forward to having some leisure time.

"I have a grandson I want to see in Halifax as soon as the [Atlantic] bubble goes up again," he told reporters.

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