Nfld. & Labrador

'I'm ready,' says Premier Dwight Ball after supporters lose push to delay leadership review

Supporters of Premier Dwight Ball had proposed pushing the June 2020 annual general meeting and leadership review to 2021.

Liberal executive voted 13-3 to keep annual general meeting for 2020

Premier Dwight Ball is seen here in June 2018 at the Liberals' annual general meeting in Gander. The Liberal executive voted down a proposal to delay the 2020 meeting for a year. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Premier Dwight Ball says he is ready for a leadership review after an attempt by his supporters within the Liberal executive to delay next year's leadership review until 2021 failed.

"I'm ready to have one this weekend if they wanted to," said Ball.

At a meeting of the executive of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday, the party solidly voted to keep the leadership review — likely the weekend of June 12, 2020 — instead of overriding the party's constitution and buying the premier more time. 

The executive consists of members who make decisions for the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

That proposal to delay the leadership review was rejected by a vote of 13-3.

After the defeat, Ball loyalists attempted to compromise by recommending a date in the latter part of 2020, sometime after June, but that, too, was rejected.

When asked why his loyalists would push for a delay, Ball said, "I wasn't at that table ... certainly not [made] on my request at all."

"I'm ready for the review in February ... I'm not afraid of reviews," Ball told Here & Now's Anthony Germain Thursday evening in an year-end interview. 

Sources tell CBC News the decision to not delay or reschedule the leadership review is an indication that Ball's clout is diminishing and that the party wants to hold him to account after returning to power in May with a minority government.

The move to reschedule the leadership review was pursued, even though a legal opinion was presented to the executive that said it was not permitted, as per the party's constitution.

Premier Dwight Ball will face a review of his leadership in June, despite efforts from some in the party to delay the vote for a year. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Ball is not the only leader who will face a leadership review in 2020.

In November, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie announced he would open himself up to a leadership review sometime next spring.

The budget

For next year's provincial budget, Ball said he isn't worried about potentially facing the polls if the budget doesn't pass in the House in March.

"If the opposition parties decided that they want an election based on our budget, we'll go to the people of this province," he said.

"Instead of letting 40 people decide, we'll let some 500,000 people decide on what the future is for Newfoundland and Labrador."

Troublesome few months for cabinet

Cabinet stability has been an issue that has persisted over the last several months.

Most recently, Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Christopher Mitchelmore ended up apologizing for his role in the hiring of Carla Foote — daughter of Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote —  to a senior position at The Rooms without a competitive process.

The ordeal was was detailed in the scathing Mitchelmore Report, written by the Office of the Citizens' Representative and forwarded to Bruce Chaulk, the commissioner for legislative standards, who recommended a reprimand for the embattled minister.

Christopher Mitchelmore has apologized for his role in the hiring of Carla Foote at The Rooms. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Mitchelmore voted against his party on a motion to impose punishment, which also included a two-week suspension without pay. Ball said Mitchelmore would remain in cabinet because he was a young minister who had simply made a mistake.

After several days of defending Mitchelmore in the House of Assembly, and ahead of the apology, Ball described Mitchelmore as "a loyal soldier."

Last month, several days of House of Assembly business was dominated by Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne, for injecting racial accusations into a debate about 2.6 million dead farmed salmon.

Byrne had accused NDP MHA Jim Dinn of marginalizing Indigenous leaders who have said climate change was a factor in the die-off, because he questioned it  — and that Dinn had a pattern of such behaviour, according to Byrne.

There was no evidential basis for his comments.

Byrne eventually withdrew those comments in the House of Assembly, but did not apologize.

Perry Trimper is the MHA for Lake Melville. He says unflattering remarks he left in a voicemail with Innu Nation are not those of 'the Perry Trimper I work hard at.' (CBC)

In September, Perry Trimper resigned from the environment and municipalities portfolio after a phone call between Trimper and an unidentified woman was accidentally left on the voicemail of Domenic Rich, an executive assistant of the Innu Nation.

In the conversation, which came as a result of Trimper not hanging up or ending the initial call, he and the woman talk about providing a translator for vehicle registration services.

Trimper said: "It's not their God-given right to provide service" and "the race card comes up all the time." ​​​​​

Trimper subsequently apologized.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Anthony Germain and Ryan Cooke

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