Danny Williams pitches in for Virginia Waters byelection

A former premier was on the campaign train with PC candidate Danny Breen on Wednesday, as an advance poll was held in the Virginia Waters byelection.

PC candidate Danny Breen picks up endorsement from former premier

Danny Williams joins PC candidate Danny Breen in his Virginia Waters headquarters 1:13

Former Premier Danny Williams helped PC candidate Danny Breen Wednesday as the byelection campaign in Virginia Waters enters its final stretch.

Breen is hoping to win the April 9 byelection in the St. John's district vacated by former Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

The Tories are making a big push to hold on to the former premier's seat.

"Having Danny's support is fantastic," said Breen. "People like him. People enjoy him. People respect his contributions."

Breen is campaigning against Liberal Cathy Bennett and New Democrat Sheilagh O'Leary. 

The event marks a return to active campaigning for Williams, after a falling-out with Dunderdale left him on the sidelines for three years.

Former Premier Danny Williams (left) and PC candidate Danny Breen campaign together in the 2014 Virginia Waters byelection. (CBC)
As he returns to the field, Williams says this is a crucial byelection for his party.

"It's a former premier's seat, so I think it's important that we win," said Williams.

"To get a star candidate, in my opinion, someone like Danny Breen, I felt it's really important to show my support."

Breen has taken an unpaid leave of absence as a member of St. John's council. His east end ward includes Virginia Waters. 

Privately, the Liberals tell CBC News that Williams' re-emergence shows how tight this race is, and that the Tories have been forced to turn to Williams for star power.

Williams acknowledged that it will be a tough seat to hold.

"But I'm not looking at a loss here at all," Williams said. "I'm looking at getting Danny Breen on this Conservative team. He will be a huge asset."

Williams campaigned with Breen as the advance poll for the byelection was held. Elections Newfoundland and Labrador reported that 604 people cast votes, higher than the 492 votes cast in the advance poll in the 2011 general election. 

Won't pick choice in leadership

Meanwhile, Williams told reporters that he is not picking a favourite in the three-candidate race for the PC leadership, even though he spoke out during the winter against Corner Brook businessman's candidacy. Also competing are businessman Frank Coleman and Howley councillor Wayne Bennett. 

"I wasn't going to endorse anybody in this leadership, and I've said that even when people, cabinet ministers like Derrick Dalley and Steve Kent and Darin King and all these people were  being mentioned," said Williams, referring to how several Tory insiders pondered possible leadership bids but ultimately decided to stay on the sidelines. 

"I have no intention of doing it. I have said who I won't endorse, though," said Williams. "I have nothing personal against Mr. Barry. I just don't think he'd be a good leader for the province." 

There has been a lot of speculation inside and outside Tory circles that Coleman, who runs a family-owned network of supermarkets, has been running with Williams' encouragement, which Coleman has denied.

Coleman said he contacted Williams for advice, but that was the extent of it. "I can assure you I am nobody's boy," Coleman told CBC last month


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