'I'm a good listener': Ches Crosbie promises new era for PC Party

Ches Crosbie says he'll be open to what people have to say about improving the province's economy and troubled political culture.

Crosbie wants to run for constituency in St. John's area given his 35 years working in region

St. John's lawyer Ches Crosbie was elected as the 20th leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Party on Saturday. (CBC)

Ches Crosbie, who was elected as the new leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservatives over the weekend, says he will be open to what people have to say about improving the provinces' economy and troubled political culture.

People tell me I'm a good listener. You might not think that's a great skill in anybody, but it's actually quite rare.- Ches Crosbie

Crosbie beat beat Tony Wakeham to succeed outgoing PC leader Paul Davis on Saturday, garnering 2,299 points over Wakeham's 1,701 in a system that awarded 100 points for each of 40 districts based on the voting percentage.

Now Crosbie will now get to work rebuilding the opposition party, which currently holds seven seats in the House of Assembly, trying to make the PCs look like a viable alternative to the sitting Liberals, who have governed over a period of economic and political turmoil for the province.

Welcoming ideas

Crosbie said his style will be to engage in public discussion and take in all opinions about the problems the province is dealing with, such as public spending and Muskrat Falls.

"My approach to this is not to dictate what should happen. People tell me I'm a good listener. You might not think that's a great skill in anybody, but it's actually quite rare," he told the St. John's Morning Show.

"Eventually there may be some pain, yeah, but whatever has to be done if I'm in a position to do it I will have done so after listening thoroughly to what the population thinks."

The opposition PCs currently hold seven seats in the House of Assembly, and Crosbie says he wants to run for a seat on the northeast Avalon. (CBC)

For his own constituency, Crosbie said ideally he would like to eventually run for a district in the St. John's area, where he made a name for himself as a lawyer. Though he says it's too early to talk about specifics yet.

However, the new leader said there seems to be a renewed sense of optimism within the PC Party.

Crosbie said the party is actually in a good position to rebound given its relatively low debt and the state of the Liberals following last week's news about harassment allegations against MHA Eddie Joyce.

"You just keep doing the work of rebuilding the party, it will take care of itself," Crosbie said. "You keep an eye cocked on what the others are doing of course. But one thing they're doing is tearing themselves apart right now."

Eddie Joyce turmoil

Crosbie said even though his family name is synonymous with conservative politics in the province through his father's time as a provincial and federal minister, he still considered himself an outsider given his 35 years suing the province and corporations as a lawyer.

He's now at a point in his professional and family life where he feels he has the time to dedicate to politics, and with the recent harassment allegations against Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce he also feels the timing is right for the PC Party to present itself as a viable alternative to the sitting government.

Crosbie says there's a new sense of optimism in the PC Party. (Paula Gale/CBC)

"It's become fairly obvious to people on the outside that the legislature has become a toxic workplace. I say that's part of our democratic deficit. It's a place where our laws are made, it needs to operate at top efficiency and effectiveness," Crosbie said.

"We desperately need to address many things about democracy here and we should start with this seeings it's top of mind right now."

Voter apathy

There were around 11,000 PC Party members registered during this weekend's leadership vote, but with a roughly 43 per cent turnout, Crosbie said it's clear the process is flawed. While he hopes a leadership race wouldn't be necessary again for years to come he said the party needs to look at making voting available online and more accessible to older people who perhaps can't understand the complex mail-in instructions.

"When they looked at the instructions I know that some of them decided this was too much of a challenge and didn't fill out the ballot," he said.

"I think everyone in the party agrees there are ways to improve the process next time. We need to make it easy for people to find a channel of their preference."

With files from St. John's Morning Show